ANDREW SETO 'Desire Lines'

3 Aug 2023 – 27 Aug 2023

Regular hours

12:00 – 17:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 17:00
12:00 – 17:00

Free admission

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London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • 8,67,149,242,243,388
  • Liverpool Street / Old Street and Shoreditch High St. overground
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Pleasure gardens, new paintings - queering the pitch.


In classical garden design from almost any culture in any age (from the Persian carpet, through Le Nôtre to Vita Sackville-West and beyond) a formal landscape is laid out to contain, to tame the ‘wilderness’ that encroaches it. In the austere Zen gardens of Japan the natural landscape is ‘borrowed’, the distant view of its wayward natural forms framed by a rectangle cut into the garden wall.  The real world is abstracted, distanced and aestheticised while its stony reperesentation – the gravel seas and stone islands before us – are mniaturised as a new reality.  An arena for interior journeys with simultaneous reference to that external scene beyond the frame. A garden within a garden, a painting within a painting. Which of these landscapes is metaphor? Is there room for the allegory of creation?

Introducing a serpentine and randomised element to the plan, ‘desire lines’ are the paths we all take that go counter to those laid down by the designer – shortcuts or evasions leading to unpredicted destinations. Seto’s paradise gardens (existing distinctly AFTER the Fall of Man), map out sites of queer pleasure… woven into a carpet of trees and bushes, an undergrowth that echoes an underworld where lovers are sought or Orpheus-like wrested from Hades’ grasp. A pictographic Underworld. Cursed and blessed, damned and saved.

A borrowed exterior figmental landscape, viewed en route to an interior destination, populated by anxious fêtes galantes or fragmented background scenes, Seto’s stark lines and figures wriggle, huddle together, try to blot each other out, or stay apart. The sophistication and refinement of his arrangement of marks belies their rough execution. With Seto there’s little stability, no final pose in the game of daisy chains and musical chairs but a bold translation from the first impulse – a de-rationalisation, a patterning and a reversal – and a thoughtful understanding of the abyss that can lie under the decorative process.

Seto raises a curtain upon a masque where the action, you can be certain continues well after the curtain has fallen again. Filling the spaces between the scenes with actors both of the imagined and real worlds he paints a carefully staged backdrop to our own.

Sylvan meant savage in those primal woods

Piero di Cosimo so loved to draw,

Where nudes, bears, lions, sows with women’s heads,

Mounted and murdered and ate each other raw,

Nor thought the lightning-kindled bush to tame

But, flabbergasted, fled the useful flame.

W.H. Auden ‘Woods’

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Exhibiting artistsToggle

Andrew Seto


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