Arts & Culture  Features

Light Up Nine Elms: art critic Tabish Khan

the nine elm trees_TK_1200px

Published on
December 16, 2019


Enjoy what Tabish Khan of the Londonist has to say about art and culture in the city? We are lucky enough to have had him with us to experience Light Up Nine Elms this weekend.

Exploring Nine Elms: art critic Tabish Khan

Tabish Khan is an art critic specialising in London’s art scene, covering contemporary and historical exhibitions. He visits and writes about hundreds of exhibitions a year covering everything from the major blockbusters to the emerging art scene. Tabish has been visual arts editor for Londonist since 2013. Contributions include reviews, previews, news, experiences and opinion pieces. He is also a regular contributor for FAD with a weekly top exhibitions to see in London and a column called ‘What’s wrong with art’.

Here’s what he thought of our latest project…

“There are many reasons I love being an art critic, and one of these benefits is that art gets me to areas of London I wouldn’t ordinarily visit.

Before I discovered art I was that stereotypical Londoner who knows just their home area and the centre of town. With very little awareness of what else this amazing city has to offer.

Art is often the reason for getting me to an area and then, finding myself in unfamiliar territory, I find that I want to explore the area further and see what else there is to offer.

So it is with Light Up Nine Elms. Pippa Taylor’s drawings of elm trees, converted into digital projections by Jony Easterby, are scattered throughout the area and on a cold crisp winter’s night I ventured forth to hunt them all down.

Attraction: Elms adorn Brunswick House

Even if you’re just passing through the area these animated projections can cause you to stop and watch as trees grow and bloom, birds flock around them and there’s an occasional flurry of snow projected on to the side of a building. They are short and sweet, just what you want from outdoor works that can grab your attention while not leave you standing out in the cold for too long.

Growing: the projection on R&F’s development site opposite Riverside Gardens

Once broken free of what I’ll refer to as the ‘commuter spell’, of charging towards the nearest Underground station, these projections are an encouragement to look up at the rest of the area that surrounds the artwork. Nine Elms is a cityscape that is constantly changing as new buildings go up and the sea of cranes make it clear that it will continue to transform over the coming years.

I’ll admit that Nine Elms wasn’t an area I was familiar with and apart from a one night exploration for Art Night back in 2018 it’s an area I’ve never really explored. As the artworks in Light Up Nine Elms reference how the area got its name from elm trees, it further encourages visitors like me to want to go away and learn more about the history of the area. These artworks are the spark to break me out of normal routine.

With its bright lights, London looks very different by night than by day. Light Up Nine Elms may only be visible after dark, but an exhibition of works by Pippa Taylor is open during the day so by visiting the exhibition I’ll get to see Nine Elms by day and by night. Each area has of London has its own character, so I’m looking forward to returning during daylight hours.

The beauty of art is that it keeps you coming back to see what’s changed in the local art scene. After seeing the art you also see what else is changing in the area – the constantly changing architecture, perhaps a new coffee shop or restaurant that can tempt you in, or to see how the two elm tree saplings that were planted in January are growing – soon Nine Elms Lane will have nine sizeable elms in keeping with its name.

Follow me at @LondonArtCritic

See more Light Up Nine Elms images and check out where you can see the projections

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