Feature: Exhibition - THE REVEAL FESTIVAL -The Mechanical Aquarium in the Fish and Coal Building, Goodsway NW1

Published: 15 April 2010

RICHARD Sharples has a gallery space that he admits is a tad uncon­ventional – as is the work he is going to fill it with. He is due to take over the aptly named Fish and Coal Building, currently lying empty, and is set to turn it into a waterless aquarium.  The concept works by hanging mechanical sculptures – the biggest is more than four and a half metres – from the exposed beams in the Victorian canalside building. He was drawn to the idea by his longstanding interest in creatures of the deep.

“They are so mysterious, you can’t help be fascinated by them,” says Richard. “And they can be incredibly beautiful.” But it is not just the shimmering scales or stream-lined shapes that attract. Richard has enjoyed looking at the physical mechanics of fish, recreating their insides, to give them movement. 

Soldering wire together and creating moving parts to bring his sculptures to life was a challenge.

“It has been very Heath Robinson,” says Richard.

“I have not had any training as an engineer so it has been a case of trial and error. But they work on a pretty basic principle, even if they look complicated.”

These are not the first fish-like sculptures Richard has produced. “I once built a 10ft cod in Bremen, Germany, out of ripped-up copies of the Common Fisheries Policy to show how badly it had failed,” he adds.

The Mechanical Aquarium is in the Fish and Coal Building, Regent’s Canal, Goodsway, NW1. www.richardsharples.co.uk

The Reveal festival  presents 10 days of visual and digital art, live music and site-specific performance to celebrate the changing landscape of King’s Cross.  It is organised by stategic development agency Create King’s Cross,  an independent charity based at the British Library, supported by the Arts Council and the boroughs of Camden and Islington. 

Full details of the  Reveal festival at www.kingscross.org.uk



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