James Seow has recently completed his latest addition to The Garden Path series, with The Garden Path V, commissioned by Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners as part of the Royal College of Art, Riverlight Award. Printed on di bond panels with ultra violet cured ink, the work consists of a three-part print spanning five meters by over 2 meters and is set in an aluminum frame. The installation adorns the walls of the Riverlight Quarry, Battersea, one of lobbies of St James’ residency riverside developments.
In a recent trip back to Malaysia, Seow spent much of his time contemplating the garden that is his mother's pride and joy. Here he sees the garden as a very specific version of Nature: a visual spectacle of plants, water and space, a thing of serenity to be contemplated in peace. Perhaps one may say gardening is landscape painting, and that we learn to look at landscape in gardens as some look at landscape in painting.
The Garden Path is a body of work inspired by this contemplation. Bridging Eastern and Western aesthetics of Nature through the complex relationship between gardening and art, the complex photomontages draw references from Chinese classical ink painting, Western 19th century Romantic landscape painting and 17th century still-life painting. These digitally manipulated works collate flora and fauna motifs from online sources that reference the production, distribution and consumption of images. Exploring scale, colour and repetition, Seow addresses nostalgia, history, and ultimately the way we experience Nature in the digital age.
The work shows a mythic naturalistic garden. It represents the cultivation of a taste for landscape, in which the paths and waterways were sinuous and winding, the overall effect a celebration of natural complexity. On closer inspection it is possible to discern more than a trace of digital aesthetics, as a series of compositions dissolve into each other rather than remaining static. Delicate, colourful birds, plants, rock and waterways are set in a harmonious spatial arrangement. This image appears entirely contemporary, with a precarious balance of reality and illusion. It allows the viewer to wander through its cinematic space, leading to a continuous aesthetic experience.
The RCA Riverlight Award is supported by St James Group and forms a part a partnership with the Royal College of Art. This program runs from 2013-2017, selecting and commissioning five RCA Fine Art student to realise permanent sit-specific artworks for the five large residential lobbies at the Roger Stirk Harbour + Partner's (RSH + P) Riverlight scheme on Nine Elms Lane.
See more from James Seow's The Garden Path Series here