Clydesdale Thomson’s practice revolves around a fixation with notions of landscape, specifically in their relation to identity and ideology. Ideas of landscape have for centuries been at the centre of man’s imagining of nature, our relationship to it, and our place in the universe. The various evolutions of and debates surrounding landscape or garden traditions throughout the Western world has also made it the site of contestions for idealogies, both cultural and political, and, increasingly, economical.
The presentations and re-presentation of the natural environment as cultural contructs figures strongly in many of Clydesdale Thomson’s works. His interest in the ideological notions behind landscape traditions and their subsequent assimilation as popular symbols used on lifestyle products led him to create works that map these once potent ideologies with current consummerist tendencies, at once provoking a reexamination of historical models of landscape architecture while challenging our perception of these visual vistas.
The Distracted Gardener & The Plumbing Subverter is an extension of Clydesdale Thomson’s investigations. The gardener, as creator and caretaker of the garden, is both part of and apart from the scene he creates—he does not exist without it and yet is invisible within it. In this exhibition, the garden, as a personification of the gardener, is an abstract spatial environment that alludes to our fixation with ‘bringing’ nature into our lives which, ironically, de-naturalises it—the decorative pattern rolled onto the walls is foliage but also wallpaper; the exterior becomes interior, or rather, the exterior is interior.
As much as they are a way of looking at the world, notions of landscape are essentially experiential—we occupy the same space as the place we try to behold. At the heart of Clydesdale Thomson’s sculptural installation is an exploration of spatial relations. The line or boundary (as in his sculptures of single, twisted/angled lines) is a metaphorical space that we formulate, then negotiate, and finally transgress. They define the space we inhabit and create a visual field that is possible to comprehend on a human scale. Draped with Marimekko fabrics, famous for their nature-inspired iconic designs since the 1960s, Clydesdale Thomson’s sculptures are reminiscent of topiaries that give form to nature and therefore inversely define the space which surrounds them. Yet it is not what is before or beyond these demarcations that matter but our relationship to them—our body performs the sculptures’ function; the sculptures give our body scale.
Clydesdale Thomson believes that art does not need to be in constant address to its audience but that it can sleep and wake as we do. As his sculptures rest together, there is also a prevailing sense of their permanent existence well beyond the moment of our experience within the gallery space, just as nature is essentially indifferent to our existence. In The Distracted Gardener & The Plumbing Subverter, the artist presents the everyday, his sculptures living as though moments in daily life, mimicking design tropes associated with domestic landscapes; whether a garden fence, washing line, wall paper or a carpeted floor. Through freeing up his materials from their intended function, the works in the exhibition open up new readings and invite a re-interpretation of the world around us.
text, Khim Ong & Audrey Yeo
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