My friend and I walked along the river path in the sunshine envying the people living in the new blocks of flats that lined the riverbank. Palace Wharf Studio has a fabulous view of the river too, from a private terrace which must be a great place to watch the boat race (Harrods Depository is just across on the opposite bank). But that has been its undoing; with developers hungry to build more upmarket flats, the owners have succeeded in getting planning permission to turn the main building into flats and to demolish the sheds which house the artists’ studios and build houses instead. There are two years left on the lease – after that work will begin and the artists will be homeless.
It’s good that they will at least keep the main building, which was built in 1907 and was originally used for importing marble. As its fortunes declined it became a plaster works making architectural mouldings and was then taken over by ACAVA, the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art, an educational charity that provides studios for professional artists. Palace Wharf houses thirty-five studios, all of which are accessible.
It’s not a luxurious environment – the rabbit warren of studios has whitewashed brick walls and a primitive shared kitchen. It was cold even in September and must be freezing in winter, but a wide variety of artists work there.
We found a warm welcome in Hiroko’s tiny, windowless studio which was transformed by the colour and energy of her large wall-mounted installation inspired by the Northern Lights. It’s constructed entirely from paper she made and dyed herself and she showed us how, if you look closely at the largest pieces, you can see they’re put together from small individual sheets.
She’s very versatile; during our visit we saw a DVD of her recent work for the International Seminar of Dance Education for Children and Youth at the Vernissa Cultural Centre in Finland using paper props to help dancers working with children create new ways of moving.
She also teaches tradition woodblock printmaking and designs and makes her own jewellery, which is sold through the Oak Studio in Hampstead.
Next March she will have a solo exhibition at the Riverside Studios. Her pictures are sold online though the Saatchi Gallery or you can contact her though her website.