Canary Wharf’s Winter Lights Festival has become a firm fixture in the post-festive calendars of many Londoners – providing as it does a welcome opportunity to wrap up against the cold and enjoy a rare dose of the outdoors in these dark deep winter days.
Twenty-six installations are spread over the (current) entirety of the Wharf, mostly outdoors (a few are inside shopping malls). Some are limited to a visual spectacle while others are more interactive. Most works make innovative use of the architectural and developed natural landscapes of the Wharf’s estate, sometimes in ways that utilise existing features– as with Neon Tree and Light Bench in Canada Square Park, and Liquid Sound (by Entertainment Effects) (with colour and soundtrack) in Cabot Square – providing a lively backdrop for Old Flo. In other instances installations can seem (deliberately I suspect) at odds with the immediate environment – the web of globes of Affinity (by Amigo and Amigo and SITU2) in Montgomery Square appear to have landed from another world and are a good introduction to the immersive nature of many of the exhibits.
There is no overall theme for the 2020 Lights – some such as Lactolight (by Lactolight) at Westferry Circus incorporating 7,000+ recycled milk bottles and with an aim to raise awareness of single use plastic do reference the 2019 emphasis on sustainability – but if anything this year’s diversity of topic makes a welcome change and enhances the experience. Several works are permanent residents in the Wharf – these include Lightbench (by LBO Lightbank) in Canada Square and BIT.FALL (by Julius Popp) at Chancellors Passage. Others such as Sasha Trees (by Adam Decolight) are repeat ‘visitors’ in a new location this year at Bank Street Park.
Now in its sixth year -,and as winners of [d]arc awards (https://darcawards.com/) for the 2017 and 2019 Festivals – the ‘Lights’ increasingly has a reputation to both live up to, and surpass. While not quite in the league of the breakout year of 2017, the 2020 Lights does not disappoint and for me three works particularly stand out in a strong field.
The Clew (by Ottotto), literally circling the bridge at Cubitt Steps, is a stunning vision, combining as it does encirclement of the bridge, the opportunity to travel through the installation, and mesmerising reflections from a range of viewpoints, offering a new perspective on the Wharf itself. A must-visit for photographers!
The Clew – Cubitt Steps
Absorbed by Light (by Gali May Lucas) at Cabot Square is an arresting sight. Three ghostly seated figures each obviously absorbed, and illuminated by, the light from their mobiles. A thought-provoking work making clever use of place, activity and light – literally reflecting our own lives back to us.
Detail from Absorbed by Light – Cabot Square
Squiggle (by Angus Muir Design) is one of the larger scale works and makes excellent use of the space, in Jubilee Park, appearing to flow with the flora. When viewed from the side in a slightly surreal twist it is also (to me at least) somewhat reminiscent of the cover for Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’.
Squiggle – Jubilee Park
With extended opening hours for this year the Winter Lights Festival ends on Saturday 25th January. As ever get there if you can!
All images and text © Later Than You Think 2020