On a day suitably cold for ice sculpting a visit to an International Festival dedicated to the art at Canary Wharf, London seemed appropriate. Although not quite freezing it was still cold enough to cause frost nip on the mammary organs of a fish; the cold wind off the Thames had a biting chill to it.
The pedantic will may point out that fish don’t actually have mammary organs. Despite the festival theme of “Wonders of the Universe” there appeared to be an abundance of icy breasts included in the various sculptures, so the observation remains.
Entering from the underground we were first confronted by a small ‘graffiti’ wall where a number of eager visitors were busily carving their personal message for posterity ….. or at least until the weather changed. There was also a large ice chess game available with a couple of sculpted pieces on display.
The festival seemed very popular despite the arctic conditions, I just remained on the move to avoid the risk of freezing and being mistaken for a sculpture.
The festival is actually an international competition organised over three days with several themes and separate competitions being held. Entrants from all over Europe, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Bulgaria, Spain and France plus a single ‘outsider’ from the United States were displaying their talent and dexterity with an ice pick.
Arriving early affords the opportunity to see the artists creating their crystalline designs from huge blocks of ice using chainsaws, chisels and electric irons. There was also a speed sculpting competition later in the day which was probably great fun but it was too cold to remain the extra few hours.
The theme for the day was supposed to be celebrating the success of the recent Mars mission but most interpretations seemed to stretch the onlookers imagination more than the artists. The French probably had the simplest sculpture on display but at least the space theme was clearly recognisable.
My favourite was of a mermaid. I can only assume it corresponds to a constellation but despite the possible stretching of the theme, it was superbly created and was attracting the majority of photographers. Avoiding involuntary appearance in each others images was a challenge and one that many appeared to have given up trying altogether.
Children were enjoying playing in a small snow ‘pit’ and there was a stand which enabled visitors to attempt to produce their own icy masterpiece. Maybe one or two will be invited to enter next year, though witnessing the results it is doubtful any of this year’s contestants are unduly worried.
Thankfully there were also plenty of stalls selling hot drinks and food to help exhibitors and visitors in thawing out. A huge pile of discarded ice probably from earlier attempts attracted my attention and immediately had my one track mind considering there was enough crushed ice to supply a huge mojito party.
The refracted hues in the frozen prisms provided a welcome splash of colour on an otherwise grey day, otherwise the translucence of the ice combined grey skies produced a day which appeared almost monochrome.
The festival is certainly worth a visit, it is too late this year but fortunately it is held annually. These intricate ice masterpieces are dwarfed by the glass pinnacles of Canary Wharf, seeming a little surreal. Wrap up warm though, enjoy a pleasant hour browsing the creations and attempting to fathom the sculptors interpretation of the theme. Then get to a pub with a real fire serving mulled wine and review your own images in the warmth.