The Archipelago of Contented Peoples: Introduced Species
03.06.17 – 29.10.17
Steven Claydon’s exhibition will take place in both the grounds and the house, introducing new sights and sensibilities to their familiar environs – as well as less well known locations. Responding to the house and its distinctive collections that tell so many extraordinary stories, Claydon will examine the concept of the heirloom.
He will bring objects and ideas from external contexts into an environment that is already laden with references to other places and times – multiple accretions which have become familiar and integral to the setting over the passage of time. Through a dual process of re-making and re-presenting altered artefacts, Claydon sparks the question of how far these objects ‘belong’ in a given setting, and how far their ‘otherness’ is accommodated. The process is characterised by an affectionate yet subversive humour – playing with perceptions of authenticity and expectations of materials.
Steven Claydon has observed: “The wealth of material in the Mount Stuart archives, gardens and buildings forms a formidable arsenal of subject matter that is firmly rooted in Scottish history and politics, religious identity and eclectic architectural vernacular. For me, it is the sum accumulation of these often-contradictory details that lends Mount Stuart its potency.”
In a layered response to Mount Stuart and the island of Bute, Steven Claydon has drawn a variety of equivalences between the Pacific islands of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia, and the Scottish islands. This ostensibly exotic and far-flung comparison is less of a disjoint than it might first appear. By the mid-nineteenth century, Scottish missionaries and business interests were firmly embedded in the Pacific islands, amid the development of colonial plantations and trade routes. In Hawaii, significant and symbolic marriages took place between the Hawaiian royal family and high-ranking Scottish families – resulting in the last heir to the Hawaiian throne, princess Ka’iulani, being half-Scottish on the side of her father, Archibald Cleghorn. The princess spent considerable time in Scotland and the islands before and after Hawaii was annexed by the USA (a takeover which she emphatically opposed). Claydon draws upon this historical coincidence – a fusion of dynastic and commercial interests – as a metaphor for his use of analogous (yet historically divergent) materials, aesthetics and techniques.
Mount Stuart has been working in co-operation with The Common Guild, Glasgow to bring Claydon’s work to Bute; in parallel with his new exhibition The Archipelago of Contented Peoples: Endurance Groups, which runs at The Common Guild until 9 July.
Steven Claydon (b. 1969) lives and works in London. He studied at Chelsea School of Art & Design and Central Saint Martins, London. In 2016 he was nominated for the inaugural Hepworth Prize. He has exhibited and performed internationally, with major exhibitions including The Gilded Bough, Sadie Coles HQ, London (2016); Analogues, Methods, Monsters, Machines, at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève (2015); The Fictional Pixel and The Ancient Set, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen (2015); Culpable Earth, Firstsite, Colchester, UK (2012); Mon Plaisir…Votre Travail.., La Salle de Bains, Lyon, France (2011); Golden Times, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2010); and The Ancient Set and The Fictional Pixel, Serpentine Pavilion, London (2008). In 2015 he curated (with Martin Clark) The Noing Uv It, at Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway; and in 2007 he curated the exhibition Strange Events Permit Themselves The Luxury of Occurring at Camden Arts Centre. A major new monograph on Claydon’s work has recently been published by CAC Genève and Mousse Publishing.