Rosie Barker

Rosie Barker – Thames Narratives

The River Thames is a powerful carrier and depositor of objects from the past and the present thrown, tipped or washed into its course. Collecting these objects disgorged onto the foreshore has become a compulsion for me – they intrigue, excite, amuse and delight.

This exhibition gives me the opportunity to share some of these feelings and to highlight the qualities of some of these finds.

I begin with the general melee of the variety of artefacts that can be found in the city river – cascading out of the upturned supermarket trolley. Most are fragments – the amount that survives, even in fragmented form is remarkable.

Then I select and re-present artefacts to show their interest or beauty. Some are displayed singly – they are already entities; others are arranged as assemblages to give them more impact, to re-vitalise them or to show thoughts that occur to me when I contemplate my collection. You will see my flights of fancy.

Natural objects also feature whether they are the driftwood, beautifully turned and moulded by the river, shells, – native and imported, giant barnacles or fossil corals that were amongst the ship’s ballast. The intricacy and diversity of oyster shells also attract me. A couple of years ago while doing wire sculpture I almost subconsciously found myself fashioning an oyster shell and binding it and one sculpture led to many more.

Finally, a word about my two-dimensional works: my constellation paintings are inspired by the fragments of iridescent glass or ‘stars’ found glimmering on the foreshore. I employed a watercolour technique used by Bernd Koberling for the glass fragments to convey their luminosity. As for my drawings – I have often thought that clay pipes, en masse, resemble fish and have tried to imbue the shoals of fish with movement and purpose; also to present the fossil corals as having attitude.


While walking the foreshore, alongside other finds, I often pick up oyster shells. They are all shapes and sizes, some with holes and some without. Something about their irregular shape, patterning and colour draws me to them.

I’m recreating a number of them in wire, bound with thread.


I contacted The Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative (ENORI) to learn more about oyster behaviour to keep in mind when they are displayed


This part of a UK native oyster restoration project that involves re-introducing oysters into the Thames Estuary.


From Roman until Victorian times oysters in the Thames were a cheap source of protein but since then pollution and other factors have led to sharp decline in stocks. The city river has no live oysters at all – although shells are still thrown up on the foreshore.


Oysters are not only good for seafood lovers but are great water filterers and create conditions for other species to thrive.

Oysters work in progress


Narrating the Thames

My tale, this time round, is of finds from the Thames foreshore. My keynote is re-vitalization and I’m re-presenting what I’ve found in a variety of ways – Installation, sculptural assemblage and through paintings and drawings:


Look out for these creatures. They were found at the South Bank, Wapping and Richmond respectively and subsequently tagged.



When walking the foreshore fragments of iridescent glass glint and gleam. To me they become stars and, in my mind, and on paper, constellations form. This constellation is Cygnus (the swan)


River planets (balls found on the foreshore)      (photograph Cigdem Boru)

I’ve given up trying to make an orary – a model of the solar system -from the various balls found on the shore. I think their planetary qualities can be better appreciated lined-up like this.