Turner Prize winner Helen Cammock joins public art trail in East London

Artist Helen Cammock, pictured in front of the bridge that will act as a canvas for her artwork. Photograph: Reece Straw

Turner Prize winner Helen Cammock is the latest to join a list of luminaries whose work features in a public art trail across East London.

The Line, a free outdoor exhibition that runs from Stratford to North Greenwich, already plays host to heavyweights such as Larry Achiampong, Tracey Emin, and Antony Gormley.

It was co-founded in 2015 by director Megan Piper and late regeneration expert Clive Dutton OBE with the aim of democratising access to art.

The trail follows East London’s waterways, and Cammock’s huge text-based artwork, On WindTides, is designed to encourage people to look at the River Lea with fresh eyes.

The piece, to be revealed later this month, will adorn both sides of a cable bridge just north of Cody Dock – a once-industrial area now enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists, and a vast array of wildlife.

One side bears the words ‘we fold ourselves across the tides’, inviting viewers to consider what it means to embrace the different dimensions of life, and how neighbourhoods and communities change through time.

The other side carries the phrase ‘from silt to land sometimes we live as wind blown sand’ – a reminder that migration and movement from one location to another are a fundamental part of human existence.

The bridge connects Tower Hamlets and Newham, which are both home to large migrant communities – context that gives deeper meaning to Cammock’s message.

Cammock, who famously shared the 2019 Turner Prize with her three fellow nominees, said: “Straddling the River Lea, connecting Tower Hamlets and Newham, the bridge leant itself to the idea of speaking between two pieces of land.

“The work speaks to the site of the bridge. These boroughs house people from many different histories, cultures and experiences.

“Some are newer residents than others, but each has a different story of why they settle here with the river running through, carrying winds and tides from other parts of the world.

“This is how the world has always been and will always be – no matter whether people try to halt migration.”

Each letter of On WindTides is formed from powder-coated steel, standing proud from the surface of the bridge so that there is a subtle play of light and shadow in response to the movement of the sun.

Set against the grey of the bridge surface, the first text is rendered in a hand-mixed mint and apple green that references the ecology of the setting – the flora of an otherwise industrial landscape.

The second represents the sand, silt, muds and reeds of the riverine landscape in a warm ochre tone.

The typeface – Letter Gothic MT Med – is a signature of Cammock’s text artworks.

The artist explained: “Poetic text leaves space for interpretation, space for feelings to settle.

“I hope the texts will provide a space for reflection as people inhabit the areas around the bridge.”

Cammock’s is not the only voice that speaks through the artwork, which will be accompanied by a series of text-based works created by people in local community groups.

Over a series of workshops with Cammock, residents were encouraged to develop their own responses on paper to the location and the themes that On WindTides explores.

Housed in a bespoke fabricated display cabinet close by, these works will be presented one by one, on a monthly basis, for two years after the launch of Cammock’s installation.

Megan Piper said: “It has been inspiring to see how Helen has responded to this extraordinary landscape and worked with local groups to capture their voices within the community artworks.

“I’m hugely grateful for her commitment to this project.”

On WindTides will be available to view from the river path to the north of Cody Dock, E3 3TT,  from 23 May 2024.