KARACHI: There’s a remarkable passage in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which Ophelia, Hamlet’s benighted beloved, brings up flowers of a delectable variety but with sad implications: “…There’s a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end.” Over the ages, gardens have been used by writers and painters to express their innermost feelings and thoughts.
An exhibition of David Alesworth’s artworks titled Hortus Nocte (The Dark Garden) that concludes on Thursday (today) at the Canvas Art Gallery is a unique take on the subject.
To apprise Pakistani viewers of the drift of his ideas, Alesworth writes, “The dark garden is not all negativity, rather it is about balance and change. I see it as an eclipse in the reign of natural fecundity that is this earth, a dimming of the biosphere as the planet heats up and late capitalism eats everything it encounters.”
It’s a long statement with pearls of wisdom in between to elucidate things for his admirers. For example, he goes on to claim, “I suggest there is a terroir of art as there is for certain other products of the living earth, for as an artist I draw upon the land to understand where I am as much through the natural environment through the human culture it hosts.”
Now let’s try and unravel the clues here. It is clear that by using phrases such as ‘planet heats up’ and ‘late capitalism’ he wants the viewer to realise he thinks deeply about environmental and economic aspects of the world we live in, and by employing Latin and French words he gives away the erudition that accompanies his work. It is a worthy combination — sensitivity and learnedness.
At the same time, his frequent traveling to our part of the world has imbued his artworks with a cultural richness that’s super striking. Therefore, even when he is referencing a masterpiece such as ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ (giclee print on archival cotton paper), Alesworth brings together worlds that are both intriguingly identifiable and delightfully distinct.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2023