Deptford X 2006
Today during a walk scheduled by the festival, I had a rare opportunity to talk with the first director of Deptford X - Reuben Thurnhill. I thought it would be an ideal chance to appraise the development of the festival. One theme apparent which is still evident this year is showing artists from outside Deptford or Lewisham.
We started at The Albany where I had already examined 3 of the audio works from graduates of the MA in Sonic Arts Middlesex of University (run by Deptford artist and composer Nye Parry). It definitely pronounced the concept of using the festival platform for artists not directly working inside Deptford, but instead 'connected'. Contrast this approach with the last 2 years 'international artists' theme which apparently upset local artists evidently unsympathetic to this strategy.
The first thing we saw was the Stark Gallery presenting 3 artists in an arch in Resolution Way. We spoke to ex-blacksmith Andy Baldwin who made these magnificent metal kinetic sculptures. These archways have previously been a much needed large space for exhibits - with a central off high street location. We commented how much fewer arches were now being used this year (just one!) an indicator of the areas diminishing availability of cheap or free spaces to show works.
Next up was a classic shop stalwart of Deptford High Street - Johnny’s DIY store, which boasts being the oldest building in Deptford according to this years Deptford X website. This space has always been the champion of art amongst the streetscape in the festivals history. Artmongers who made the work called Metaphor Sale are great protagonists of public art and are the creators of two of the locales most iconic imagery - the cow bins and the mural in Giffin Square. The Artmongers have also created an anamorphic 'welcome to Deptford' (cleverly referencing the anamorphic momento mori in Holbein's The Ambassadors) it can be seen from the eastbound staircase at the station, as can two cow bins on the adjacent roof. The effect of Metaphor Sale and the welcome image is very knowing and ironically reassures the initiated that Deptford X is deeply rooted in the idea of art situated outside a gallery setting. This is the festivals most clever crossover act, to interpret the programmes stated aims and question the complex applicability of bourgeois culture in an area least acclimatised to it.
We walked across the church pathway towards Sue Godfrey Park through Ferranti Park, past The Laban toward The Creekside Environmental Centre. Local artist Alison Day showed her botanical drawings and we discussed the availability of gallery space as Alison has been involved in Lewisham Arthouse (a splendid architectural asset of the borough). I spoke of the disappearing vernacular culture and particularly lamented the closure of Goddards Pie Shop in Greenwich. Reuben was devastated and Alison remarked that (the old Bosuns Yard site, now Cutty Sark DLR) mall could be Victoria station, a cutting and brutal critique of the high street in Greenwich. I think in Lewisham we must bolster our mission statement to safeguard the high street from loosing local character and underwrite the safeguarding of buildings like Lewisham Arthouse from possibly ever being lost to community use.
Next we headed to the Music Complex to see silkscreen prints by David Upstill, shown on a floor atop the music recording and rehearsing enterprise, another great exponent of how the festival integrates spare pockets to introduce visitors to spaces otherwise undiscovered. This has always been my favourite theme, the discovery of 'Deptford the invisible'.
Last on the trail was a visit to Live Bar an old bank building whose webwise owners are cleverly using Myspace to build an online groove and all without incurring expensive web design fees. As soon as I looked inside my eyes popped out my head as I hadnt been in before, the atmosphere is exactly the perfect balance between cool and comfortable - the perfect end.