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Jo Chapman

Ascent 2022

Public Art Integrated Commission, Cremorne Wharf Depot, Chelsea, London

Commissioner: Tideway

Completion: 2022

Artist Jo Chapman has been commissioned by Tideway to create an artwork for Cremorne Pumping Station.

The permanent Tideway commissions respond to the site-specific narratives set out in the Tideway Heritage Interpretation Strategy (HIS). The cultural meander for the Central section is – ‘Babylon to World City: Civic London’, the site-specific narrative references to explore how new fashions in amenity and recreation broke down social constraints and realised communal value in the river, i.e. as an early illustration of how people can be connected with the Thames.

One of the activities in the nearby historic Cremorne Pleasure Gardens was balloon racing which was a very popular past-time. The balloons are also a metaphorical reference to the HIS’s main theme of the River of Liberty – with access to leisure activities and general enjoyment. The proposal is intended to draw more attention and recognition to the pumping station building and its setting, including its Victorian heritage. The closing of Cremorne Pleasure Gardens in 1877 ended a brief period of public access to the River; by presenting elements from the pleasure garden, the artist’s proposal remembers and recalls this time. The pub on the corner of Lots Road was formerly known as the Balloon Tavern.

The proposal is to replace the pedestrian gates to the Pumping Station with a pair of new gates in painted steel using a balloon design, with the colourway reflecting the colours of the river. The proposal utilises the balloon imagery to give a sense of depth, drama and to make the imagery abstract yet recognisable. Taking line drawings of soaring balloons the artist has developed the proposal for the artwork. The muted colours of the artwork are drawn from the tones of the river and also the Victorian interior colours of the pumping station and its machinery. The gates are the central pedestrian gates in the middle of the building, at the front of the pumping station facing onto Lots Road.

The artist’s artwork will create a better relationship to Lots Road for the Pumping Station whilst celebrating the history of the area. There is no change to the fabric of the Grade II listed building. Lots Road Pumping Station is a Grade II listed building and an operational pumping station.