31st January - 22nd April 2018
Adult Price: FREE
The foundations of Somerset House hold a unique connection to the River Thames, beyond the fact that the former overlooks the latter. Elouise Hawser’s latest exhibition in the Terrace Rooms of Somerset House, ‘By the Deep, By the Mark’, explores this connection in relation to the human body and mind.
Despite the abstract premise of the exhibition, one can expect to see attentively crafted works of art. Such ideas underpin the very foundation of the exhibition, itself being the result of a two-year research project by Hawser, involving studies of the Thames sewage system by Joseph Bazalgette and also the modern-day Thames Tideway ‘Super Sewer’. Pieces such as ‘Victoria Embankments Foreshore 1878-2018’ (2018) and ‘Cholera Map of the Metropolis, 1849’ (2018) encapsulate the river and its underpinning sewage system strikingly, through silkscreen and digital print laminate respectively. Hawser also puts vinyl to effective use in the fly poster ‘The Solution in Brief?’, an assemblage of modern London and the ecology beneath it, juxtaposed above a historic image of Somerset House. Such draws interesting parallels between the City and the river that Londoners see every day and its guttural underpinnings beneath the surface.
The connection between land and water however, is shown to be not just structural but also integral and human. This justifies the placement of arguably some of the most visually prominent pieces in the exhibition. ‘Data Floor, 2018’, as the name suggests, covers the floor with hand-drawn maps and blueprints of London’s streets, architecture and engineering. Another unique attraction is that of the ‘Ring Vortex Imaging Phantom’ (2017), a water-filled machine used for calibrating medical devices and quality control checks. Such diversity between the intricacies of the imaging machine and the vastness of the vinyl print creates a captivating experience and conveys through many mediums and materials how connected man is to water.
The third and final room in the exhibition takes the medical theme further which, while slightly losing its relevance to the Thames and Somerset House, does contain pieces that are impressive in themselves. Highlights include the ‘Hand Phantom X-ray/AAMP Performance Phantom’ (2018), a stylised silkscreen print of an x-rayed hand, and the ‘Wall Shear Stress, Velocity, and Pressure in a Human Aortic Model, 2017’, a visual rendering of the cardiovascular system, as donated by the Figueroa Lab at KCL. One has to look past the highly technical names and get up and close to these work in order to understand their deep artistic resonance with the human body, as deep as the waters that fill the Thames, dominating the view that one can see from the windows of the Terrace Rooms in Somerset House. Hawser’s latest exploit proves to be a thought-provoking way to spend a small part of one’s afternoon, one that allows to realise how at one with water we really are.