George Charman, recent Artist-in-Residence at West Dean College, presents Artichoke House, an interpretation of a pavilion conceived by Edward James and drawn up by architect Christopher Nicholson circa 1936. Working from original drawings held in the Edward James Cultural Archive, as well as taking inspiration from the concrete forms James built at ‘Las Pozas’ (Xilitla, Mexico), Charman’s installation proposes a renewed engagement with an unrealised structure. As such, Artichoke House is concerned with reviewing a surreal proposition as a means of exploring the ontological relationship between image and object.
Working from James’s original design, whilst also drawing inspiration from the concrete forms in Las Pozas, Charman’s Artichoke House is concerned with reviewing and renewing a surreal proposition as a means of exploring the ontological relationship between image and object. For Charman, like Edward James, drawing marks the beginning of possibility. The act of drawing not only brings an idea or thought into being but can also be said to bring that idea to a type of completion. The shift from two- to three-dimensions is brought about by the existence of the drawing, but this also marks the beginning of a new set of ideas and propositions, independent from its origins. That James’s design never made the shift from 2D to 3D has allowed Charman the freedom to project his own sensibilities onto this revived proposal. Less grandiose in its appearances than James’s design, resting on its side like a faux ruin, Artichoke House appears to sink into the ground. Its structure and design suggests a geodesic dome that has grown additional protuberances. A lopsided profile suggests something of the ephemeral nature of all built things, destined to decay, much like James’s concrete follies in the Mexican jungle slowly being consumed by the environment that inspired them.
Originally intended by James as a vessel in which to house images of the surreal, Charman’s pavilion, which also functions as a camera obscura, projects a different kind of surreal image: one that alludes to a past directly linked to its location, but always operating in a reversed present. Through this optical somersault, Artichoke House becomes an inhabitable eye through which the visual can be reinterpreted. This image projected within the object completes a loop from image to object and back again. Artichoke House explores how the idea, image and object of the ‘pavilion’ encourage us to see anew.