Exhibition text for 'Gardening the Archive'


26 March - 14 May 2015

Gardening the Archive presents textile interventions and a series of prints by David Alesworth, an English artist-gardener who has lived and worked in Pakistan for over twenty years. Weaving geospatial narratives into the layered space of traditional carpets, Alesworth explores the landscape of repurposed carpets as a site of complex historical and political associations.

The relationship between the carpet as a microcosmic representation of garden landscapes and the idea of gardens as perfected visions of the whole world is expressed in “Hyde Park Kashan, 1862.” Here, a fragment of a Stanford map of London (sheet-9) depicting the site of the second Great London Exposition of 1862, a world fair, has been mapped over a seventy-five year old, worn and damaged Kashan carpet. As a marker of Empire, the palimpsest alludes to power and domination.

“Cantt Runner, 1893” portrays the spatial layout of the New Lahore Cantonment, an area developed in Lahore by the British following the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. Still in existence as a whisper beneath contemporary developments, Alesworth highlights the underlying colonial history and design of modern Lahore. In “The Chinese Periodic Balouch, 1926,” a typical antique Balouch kilim is intervened upon with sheep-wool embroidery based upon an early, handwritten rendition of the Periodic Table in Chinese, taking the current (con)-quest of Baluchistan for raw materials as its premise.

The endeavor to categorise and systematise ‘the new,’ the ‘exotic,’ or the ‘other,’ at institutions such as Kew Gardens, London, is the context of a series of prints titled “Gardening the Archive.” Expressing the complexities of botanical classification and its underlying desire for knowledge and control, these hybrid archives contain overlays of printed, handwritten and pictorial documentation. Resultant images communicate the ambiguities and challenges implicit in the archive.

View show images here: http://www.galleryske.com/DavidAlesworth_2015/index.html

Vasundhara Sellamuthu