ATD Art Influences

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Garden designers don’t work in isolation. Our points of reference are not purely landscape orientated – if they were, our output might become rather inward looking. We are constantly open to cross-pollination and influenced by all sorts of phenomena be they environmental, aesthetic, architectural, nostalgic, political, pragmatic, poetic, musical or literary. I’m particularly inspired by the visual arts. I’m drawn to artists who explore how forms sit within a space and the effect this has on the strength, tension and feel of a composition.



One piece that I return to again and again is by the Hungarian painter and photographer Lazlo Moholy –Nagy (1895-1946) Untitled.

I find it fascinating to consider how and where the lines overlap the orthogonal shapes. Where the squares sit in relation to the oblong, where the composition sits within the overall canvas, its axial nature, the dynamic echo or reflection that is inverted and distorted, the overall asymmetry of it all. And, while I would never ‘lift’ a piece of art and plonk it in a garden, I can imagine the lines as a pathway or water rill. Maybe the red square is a body of water, or maybe it is a void within the massed planting of the yellow, or maybe the yellow oblong is water that can only be partially crossed. These examples are perhaps too literal, but they should give you a sense of why I find these art works so endlessly fascinating. Because they inform my sense of possibilities, as well as recognising a sense of tension, of spaciousness, of lightness and a peculiar kind of skewed order.



Another piece that sparks my imagination is Wassily Kandinskys’ (1866-1944) Dancers.
For me distillation to the purest form is something I always strive for in the design process. The energy and tension captured here in so few lines has real dynamism and movement – not least the interface of curves and straights. It leaves me with the impression that nothing could be added or subtracted without weakening the composition – everything is perfectly placed.


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Barbara Hepworth (1903 – 1974) inspires me in yet another way. With Hepworth it is the organic form, the relationship between lightness and mass feels so elemental – so tactile and free. These organic forms are not only wonderful in their own right but also provide a counterpoint to geometries and grids that we work with in our master plans.



Bridget Riley (born 1931) was an artist I first became exposed to when on my design course at Inchbald. Many years later I went along to the ‘Lines of Thought’ exhibition for Hull’s City of Culture with my dad. Amongst all the classical pieces, by artists such as Rembrandt and Michaelangelo, was a Bridget Riley that my 80-year-old dad was drawn to.

The purity of form in these OP ART images, the monochrome, the repetition and flow allows everyone to have their own response – in this way I find them refreshingly accessible and geometrically interesting to designers of any field.


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Finally, Equivalent 8 by Carl Andres (born 1935)

…or a pile of bricks! It always was quite a controversial piece. I am a firm believer that art should be accessible to all – not just those highly skilled experts who have studied the layers of hidden meaning. This is one such work that I’m in no doubt my younger self would have dismissed as an ‘anyone can do that’ piece!

Chief amongst our goals at Angus Thompson Design is the pursuit of calm, peaceful, strong and elegant 3D spaces that, in their wider setting, seem entirely logical. This piece has this in abundance and also speaks in the micro and the macro, light and shade, mass and void. Wonderful.