• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Debbie Lawson: Magic Carpet, Fergusson Gallery, Perth

On the way through the pedestrianised streets of Perth to see Debbie Lawson's Magic Carpet exhibition, I passed an interiors shop with Persian patterned rugs hanging inertly on the wall.

Items displayed for sale in this way are a common enough sight on and off the high street. We're also used to seeing them lying flat out in our homes ... but not necessarily in an art gallery.

The twist with Lawson's carpets is that she weaves the natural world into them in the shape of goofy-looking grizzly bears, seagulls in perpetual motion, a forest of conifers or a sly little fox emerging from a canopy of ivy. These are all part of the fabric of Lawson's carefully reconstructed world. The carpets she uses might be cheap factory versions of the real Persian deal, but she turns them into beguiling sculptures which I would happily hang on my living-room wall.

Dundee-born Lawson studied sculpture at Central Saint Martins College of Art in London and still lives in the city, but in the decade since she graduated she has retained close links with Scotland. She is the recipient of this year's JD Fergusson Arts Award, given for the development of new work for a solo exhibition at the Perth gallery every second year (in alternate years the award takes the form of a travel bursary). Her work is in several collections, including the House of Lords and Nottingham Castle Museum, but this is the first time she has had a solo exhibition in Scotland.

"For Magic Carpet," Lawson explains, "I have created a new series of sculptures partly inspired by the Arabian Nights, a classic of literature whose interwoven stories have a textural, multi-layered quality that feels appropriate to my choice of material."

There are indeed many layers at work here. Lawson may be taking a subliminal poke at trophy rugs, but she has not tried too hard to hide the joins where the creatures or plant life emerge from her carpets. This has the effect of making them more dream-like.

As you walk into the gallery, you are greeted by a wild boar's head emerging from the top of a rug spattered with crimson colours. He even has teeth made from the jaggedy pattern. It's oddly comforting seeing a rug which looks so familiar, but discomfiting to see a scary-looking boar's head poking out.

In this first room, in between a little fox underneath his canopy of ivy and a river rug teeming with brown trout, there is a tiny Sticky Willy plant, made from velcro and steel, making its way up the wall. There's also a flock of seagulls (made from masking tape and wire) flying past a large circular sun. The sun is a carpet in yellow tones and has its own two gulls made from the same rug. The star of the show has to be Persian Bear, who towers over onlookers in the back room of the ground floor at well over seven feet tall. This grizzly fellow looks as if he's literally bursting out of the patterned rug with its base colour of fawns and browns. His head is tilted, and his stomach pattably fat. His giant paws are outstretched, as though begging for a hug. The fringes of the carpet form hippy-looking moccasins at his feet.

A few paces away from the bear's feet is a green forest-floor of a rug, complete with a small forest of conifers following the semi-circle of the rug's ancient pattern. On an adjacent wall is a small red rug with a single bird gliding past in flight, caught in perpetual motion.

Playful, thoughtful and beautiful, this is a wee gem of an exhibition, where Lawson more or less gets it just right.

Debbie Lawson: Magic Carpet, the Fergusson Gallery, Perth (www.pkc.gov.uk/museums, 01738 783425) until March 15

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

200021