Shadow Play – Christmas at RAW

Twelve windows, twelve wonders, one wharf.

Shadow Play is a project by the artists of Royal Albert Wharf in collaboration with Art in The Docks celebrating London’s diverse communities on the windows of the wharf. Each artist created a unique Shadow Play picture in their studio window, creating a cinematic journey along the waterside. Shadow Play was on display from the 2nd of December until Christmas.

Photo by Don Blandford

We interviewed RAW artist Charlie Tymms about the project. Read below:

How did Shadow Play come about ? Who are the artists involved?

This project was inspired by my good friend Harriet Murray and evolved from a conversation with the Royal Docks team on how to create a local Artist led event at RAW. We have so many windows on the wharf I thought we could create a cinematic journey after dark along the waterside made by Bow artists and designers to  open up ideas around storytelling and celebrate our diverse communities and local history. Using cheap materials from our local builders merchant we were able to construct a frame with stretched white cotton to fit exactly inside each artists studio window. With a bright light lit from behind the screen after dark the process of story telling through very simple cut out black materials making Shadow Play began. It was exciting to see the artists different approaches using only limited materials for expression and few things are more rewarding than bonding with your fellow Artist on a collaborative project.

Photo by Don Blandford

How did Shadow Play resonate with the Royal Albert Wharf local community?

Really good, I think people loved seeing all the illuminated windows and imagining windows into their own story worlds.

Photo by Don Blandford

Tell us a bit about Royal Albert Wharf’s artist community.

The Artist community here is a delightfully mixed bag of free spirits, rogues and radicals!

Photo by Don Blandford

Tell us about Art in The Docks and your involvement with it.

I am a founder member of Art in the Docks and alongside my team mates we constructed all the movable walls. This makes the space incredible adaptable for exhibitions and performances and has already created a cultural footprint in the neighbourhood with numerous events and exhibitions.

As a Puppet Designer I have used the space very successfully for research and development of puppets and scripts for theatre, as an artist in residence and as a workshop space for all the artists involved in the making of Shadow Play.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice.

I design and fabricate mostly large rod puppets in my studio for the Theatre. My practise involves much discussion and collaboration with directors and stage designers on the action, character, material nature of a puppet and ultimately what the budget can afford.

Photo by Don Blandford
Photo by Don Blandford

What are you working on at the moment?

I have just returned from the National Theatre in Reykjavik, Iceland designing and making 3 giant puppets for a forthcoming production of The Dream Catcher, a new musical by Gunnar Helgason directed by Stefan Jonsson. There is an enormous cat puppeteered by 4 people, a giant eagle and a big seal. 

What are the challenges you face as an artist/designer/maker?

Time! There is never enough and space but as we have Art in the Docks as a break out facility this has been really helpful to me and my fellow artists. I particularly enjoy engineering all the moving parts but the puppet making challenges are to do with making them strong enough to withstand a long run on stage and be light enough not to break the puppeteers.

Photo by Don Blandford

How do you envision the future of RAW and its creative community?

As we are such an interesting and varied band of creative practitioners who are actively engaged in the local community, since lockdown I have noticed and when we initially had the green light to set up the gallery space that we have worked more collaboratively with the residents and that seams to have had a very positive ongoing effect. There is so much scope here to develop collaborative projects with artists and I think there is the will.

Portrait of Charlie Tymms by Michel Turrani