Holly Hendry's public commission 'Slackwater' is now on view on the roof of Temple Underground station
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Holly Hendry's public commission 'Slackwater' is now on view on the roof of Temple Underground station
Slackwater emerges as an immense sculptural entanglement that weaves together the watery history of its riverside location, with references to the abstract rhythms of the Thames and liquid movements within the human body.

LONDON.- theCoLAB announced Slackwater, Holly Hendry’s first public commission in London and her most expansive to date. Made for The Artist’s Garden, this site-specific work occupies the vast terrace on the roof of Temple Underground station. The project continues theCoLAB’s dedication to commissioning innovative contemporary installations by women artists within this unique, half-acre site. The Artist’s Garden has been realised in close partnership with Westminster City Council since 2021.

Slackwater emerges as an immense sculptural entanglement that weaves together the watery history of its riverside location, with references to the abstract rhythms of the Thames and liquid movements within the human body. In conceiving the work, Hendry was drawn to changes in the pattern of the river’s surface; after slackwater, when an incoming tide meets the fluvial flow, water stills, and then eddies – whirlpooling against the main direction of the flow – before pursuing its course upstream. Constructed with industrial-scale ducting, curled around electricity spools and over casts of inflated boat fenders, the work ebbs and flows across the site’s architecture. The artist’s visual language brings together both scientific research and cartoon imagery. Its pastel tones and exaggerated forms are drawn from ancient depictions of floods and rivers, and 19th century microscopic images of Thames water, described as ‘monster soup’, a bacterial slurry teeming with surreal, animated forms.

Hendry’s Slackwater lifts the lid on The Artist’s Garden, drawing up all that flows around, beneath and through us. The roof terrace is part of the Victoria Embankment, a bold reclamation of land beside the Thames conceived and built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette between 1865–1870 to resolve the ‘Great Stink’. This feat of Victorian engineering turned muddy foreshores into public spaces, with roads and walkways overhead, and tunnels for trains, water and waste beneath, creating a new edge, or in weaving terms ‘temple’ for London. Slackwater draws together the rhythms of subterranean, bodily and narrative flows of the city, its people and places to become a ‘sculpture as an interrupter’ to our everyday routes, inviting us to criss-cross the work’s anatomy and be borne along by its internal flow.

“I have been using the pattern of tide, wave and sound motion diagrams to create a physical rhythm and a surface in the space where things interconnect, tighten, loosen and come undone. I hope to confront and challenge the idea of what sculpture in cities can be – the constant change in how we move and exist in relation to this, something that opposes individual static permanence and hierarchy” --- Holly Hendry

Holly Hendry

Selected exhibitions and commissions include ‘Lip-sync’ Birmingham, 2023, ‘Sump’ ESCH2022, Luxembourg and SCAD, Georgia, 2024; De La Warr Pavilion 2021; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, 2017; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, 2014; Liverpool Biennial, 2018; ‘Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945’, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2021; ‘Beano: The Art of Breaking Rules’, Somerset House, 2021. Her work is in the Arts Council, British Council and Government Art Collections, UK and FRAC Grand Large, France. Holly Hendry is represented by Stephen Friedman Gallery and is lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art. She lives/works in London.

Claire Mander of theCoLAB says, “Hendry’s work draws the public into the inexorable rhythm and flow of water through body, City, and the Thames. She has woven The Artist’s Garden into a gigantic, approachable drawing. Her work shows the power of contemporary sculpture to reveal unseen connections between a place and its people across time and through material. Working in partnership with Westminster City Council since The Artist’s Garden first opened its gates to the public as London’s only sculpture garden dedicated to the work of women artists in 2021, we are delighted to have their continued and vigorous support.”

Cllr Tim Roca, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning & Leisure, says: “It has been brilliant to partner with CoLAB to welcome art installations to bring vibrance to our underused public spaces. This new installation by Hendry is a wonderful example of how our bustling city and its intricacies should be celebrated. The council’s ambition is to make world-class culture accessible for residents and visitors to Westminster, and this project will help develop the Artist’s Garden into a celebrated open-air gallery in the heart of our city.”

This commission and The Artist’s Garden is realised in partnership with and supported by Westminster City Council and with kind permission of LUL/Transport for London. With special thanks to UK Power Networks for providing the cable drums, to WSP UK for their advice and Frieze 91 for their support.

The Artist’s Garden, on the roof of Temple tube station, London, WC2R 2PH. All welcome. Open daily from 8am with seasonal closing times at dusk. Free.

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