I return again and again to this image by Jem Southam, it seems familiar but each time I notice a new strangeness to it, something I’ve missed before or something that reveals itself as if it had always been there, waiting.
On Landscape has an interview with Jem Southam at: https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2013/03/stories-from-the-land/
Mark Manders, Nocturnal Garden Scene, 2005.
MM: Three different ideas come together in this work. It first began in about 1998 with a simple wish. The idea of making a wish is of course a useful tool for an artist, and when you make a wish it does not matter in the slightest whether you could ever make it come true. For instance, you wish that you could open up your chest easily and painlessly and watch your heart pumping. In this case, I wanted to put down two objects—two cups, for instance—in exactly the same spot on a table. That is physically impossible of course, but the idea, the wish that I could put two objects in the same place, stayed on my mind.
Another thing that has occupied my thoughts for some years now is the slack rope. At any moment, there are slack ropes hanging in many parts of the world, and I think it is an incredibly lovely, melancholy phenomenon. The curve of a slack rope as it hangs is just beautiful. A few years ago I devised a plan to hang a slack rope in the most tense place in the world. The two ideas I have just told you about came together when I decided to put a cat in the same place as a slack rope. The only way to accomplish this was by having the slack rope hung between the two halves of the body of a cat that was divided in two. If I had cut the rope in half, it would not have been a slack rope any more, but a cat divided in two is still a cat. Then I turned this still life into a nocturnal garden scene, like a three-dimensional photograph. I like the way the darkness in this scene captures light.
I do not see this as a violent scene. To me it has more to do with melancholy and silence. The difference in tension between the three ropes in this night scene is very beautiful. For me, it is not important if the viewer grasps the train of thought that lies behind this work. The story of how this sculpture came about is ultimately irrelevant to whatever power it may have. The work has now been set up in the world as a fait accompli, and operates as an image. I am sure it will mean something different to each viewer. One of the nice things about a sculpture is that you can look at it for just a few seconds and then carry it away in your mind, sometimes for the rest of your life, as a mental photograph. Sometimes I try to make sculptures that are almost impossible to carry away in your mind.