RSVP is an exhibition that brings together a group of artists who engaged with the CWND artists’ residency in 2017. The Canary Wharf New District residency (CWND) was established by Andrea Coltman in 2016 and is a pioneering artist led residency, it being the first (and only) annual opportunity of this type within the Canary Wharf estate. The residency itself is housed deep within the construction site of the Wood Wharf ‘New District’ development to the east of the estate. Over the course of the summer the residency artists are encouraged to explore the nature of the site by developing a critical dialogue between their diverse practices and the unique environment of one of the world’s major financial districts that surrounds them. During the 2017 residency there were a range of visiting artists invited in to facilitate seminars, lectures and workshops, there were official site tours and even a visit to the top of the iconic tower at One Canada Square, the defining symbol of the London Docklands project.
Deptford is an appropriate venue for this exhibition, from here the buildings of the Docklands on the Isle of Dogs seem to be both very near and paradoxically very far away due to their close proximity to Deptford ‘as the crow flies’ but decisively separated by the fast-flowing waters of the river Thames. This sense of being both physically near and yet mentally far away from the site is the most obvious common thread in the experience of the artists during the residency, their position as artists affords them the privileged position of being unclassifiable outsiders embedded deep inside a community populated by easily classified ‘insiders’ ranging from the office workers in their business suits, construction workers in hard hats and hi-vis vests, uniformed retail workers, street cleaners and day tripping tourists. Their residency artist status afforded them official approval to move freely within this archetypal 21st century space (health and safety permitting!) and so with the luxury of time they have been free to observe, think, look and talk much like a 19th century flâneur or flâneuse.
The practical results presented here are as diverse and exciting as the artists themselves. Some explore the psychogeographic implications of this intensely controlled environment others have responded to the unseen or overlooked peripheral elements whilst some have revelled in the formalism inherent in the geometry of glass and steel structures and the unique way riparian light is reflected off these surfaces. Despite the various nature of these responses they are all unified by the quality of the collaborations initiated during the residency and, as is clear from the work in this exhibition, it is an ongoing and vital dialogue that will continue to feed and enrich their practices in the future.