Time and TideArtist - TAG. Installed December 2013

In October 2013, TAG artist James Straffon submitted a design proposal for a 27-square-metre installation artwork. This was in response to a commission initiative organised by Fourth Wall Creations in conjunction with Urban Space Management, both based at Trinity Buoy Wharf, in London's docklands. The Time & Tide Public Art Commission would involve three chosen artists, creating a series of arts based interventions intended to enrich the visual journey from local transport hubs, through Orchard Place, and into the Wharf itself.



Fourth Wall Creations received a considerable response; Straffon's submission chosen as one of the three appointed artists. His proposal embraced the core focus of the commission, as well as one of the fundamental principles of TAG's ethos - that of heritage, and stories:

'My proposal concerns a historical commemoration of the surrounding vista, more specifically the Corporation of Trinity House, and the industry established at Trinity Buoy Wharf as a Thames-side melange of activity - with engineers, platers, riveters, pattern makers, blacksmith, tinsmiths, carpenters, painters, chain testers and labourers, creating the iron buoys which would safeguard those who travelled the waters of London, the United Kingdom, and indeed the world. Their long gone voices of the past can be embedded within this artwork.

I propose to create a number of graphic representations of the iron buoys, featuring the form and markings contained in their various individual purposes. This could include the Cardinal Marks (indicating deep water, junctions or bends), and Safe Water Marks (showing the best point of passage).

The forms would be very bright and bold, and every bit as noticeable as the functional objects to which they reference. This suggestion of navigation can broadly imply the passage of visitors through the space'.

The fabrication process would involve attaching in excess of 4,000 industrial nylon cable ties to a nine-metre stretch of steel fencing. This weather-proof screen would form the woven canvas, itself a three-dimensional embellishment to the space, onto which a graphic landscape of semi-abstract forms would be applied via paper stencil and spray paint. Work began on a frosty morning in mid-December, when the first ties were locked tight against the steel uprights. Over a number of days the process unfolded. Misty mornings brought a surreal and somewhat otherworldly quality to proceedings; low winter sunshine occasionally peering over the now dormant East India Dock. It was that bygone industry which made this project particularly resonant for the artist, as his own Grandfather - William Ella Straffon - spent his entire working life toiling on those very same waters as a Thames Lighterman.

It is to him that Straffon dedicated this installation piece - FOR WILLIAM ELLA.

With special thanks to Ana & Clara.


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