Between shadow and memory (imagining the garden): a ramble through the paradoxes of space

by Andrew Cooks

Institution: Monash University
Department: Art and Design
Year: 2015
Keywords: Space; Time; Memory; Shadow; Garden; Deliquescence; Layers; Pretty
Record ID: 1043949
Full text PDF: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/1144632


We experience space in a variety of ways, all of which relate to our bodies’ senses, to where we are in the world during our waking lives. A direct corollary of our experience of space is time since we exist in time and space simultaneously. We know where we are in relation to other things yet this understanding is mostly unconscious, featuring nowhere in the syllabus of our education—based on a lifetime of experiential learning, adjustment to circumstance and re-adjustment. Taking the pleasure garden as a starting point and trigger since it is at once nature and culture—a site inscribed by design to re-enact nature under human control—I see the garden as a metaphor for painting. Using my traverse of the garden I examine how I act in space, why I move this way or that. What prompts my choices and decisions? How do attraction, desire, wish fulfillment, memory, imagination and taste affect the above? Since my experience of space and time is not usually conducted via any predetermined or orthodox structure, so likewise as an artist my research has evolved in an organic and rhizomatic form, as a ramble. A key objective of the project is to reveal how my spatial experience dictates a rhapsodic expression and how necessary this methodological latitude is for my topic. Although spatial experience has been historically translated into pictures using rich traditions, which inform my project, artists often leave little evidence of the processes by which they navigated space. Like any language we culturally inherit pictorial traditions, working within or against them. This research—in the studio and in writing—examines this gap through a series of interconnected essays, which address or recover specific aspects of how I relate to pictorial space vis-à-vis my vast ongoing experiences of real, dimensional space and time. Concomitant with this exegesis I have made a group of large panoramic paintings. These works, designed to be installed as vast but discontinuous panoramas, explore and investigate the possibilities of various systems of pictorial spatial representation that include—but are not limited to—western perspective, Chinese and Japanese scroll painting, Persian and Mughal miniatures, pattern and decoration, abstraction and representation, textiles and wallpaper, tapestry, architectural pictorial systems, nineteenth-century panoramas and a sense of filmic time. This study seeks—through the combination of written and pictorial research—to create a body of work that combines the variety of these different pictorial systems and describes how and why they work as they do. My aim is to conduct the viewer on a tour via my rambling, to show the reader around and about and above all to charm you with my enthusiasms. Finally it is my hope to persuade an open-minded viewer and reader that the ramble of my sub-title provides a unique possibility for a kind of artistic method intrinsically built on ontological awareness as an immersive experience, and that this method is itself a form of knowledge.