Local Heroes: Naomi Mcintosh's Quiet Garden

As her Quiet Garden installation continues at the London Design Biennale, Naomi Mcintosh talks about participating in one of this year’s most important international design events

Article by Stacey Hunter | 14 Jun 2021
  • Local Heroes

The London Design Biennale, set within the historic architecture of Somerset House, presents work from 28 countries, territories and cities in a global gathering of design. Some of the world’s most ambitious and imaginative designers and curators have responded to Artistic Director Es Devlin’s theme of Resonance in the context of climate emergency.

Quiet Garden is a collaboration between Ruup & Form and Naomi Mcintosh, an interdisciplinary designer based in Crathie, Aberdeenshire. It is a contemplative installation consisting of suspended wooden sculptures drawing inspiration from natural elements. The installation has been developed with sustainability at its core and responds to nature’s resonance engaging in a quiet conversation with the viewer.

“It’s a reflection and personal project that has evolved over the last year," says Mcintosh. "An early conversation with the project curator Varuna Kaur Kollanethu prompted me to advance the project. I was spending less time making work in 2020 and much more time in my garden, running and drawing. I gave myself permission to think of these things as interconnected.”

The sculptures are boundaryless columns, allowing the viewer to see into and through the pieces, playing with the internal and external structure and using light to play with shadows. The materials can be skeuomorphic, looking heavy and solid at times, and light and lace-like at others. The installation is an interpretation of space, pattern, and movement through the relationship between the body and object. McIntosh uses wood as a material to prompt an emotional response to resonance of space and specifically the feeling and sensation of being within green landscapes.

“Design, loosely, is about problem solving and design can create change. For me, this is currently about preciousness and well-being. Preciousness of materials and using design to tell a story about the sanctity of landscape and nature,” she explains.

Mcintosh captures the changing feeling of space, scale and light when among the trees. This sensation can have a powerful and lasting impact, and she captures the vibrating and oscillating energy by exploring visual noise. With a background in architecture, she creates spaces by using techniques similar to an architectural model maker.

“I’m really interested in the interpretation of this year's theme of ‘Resonance’ and the storytelling and sharing of experiences from around the world. A physical exhibition now is so uplifting and exciting. In Quiet Garden we are responding to nature’s resonance and have considered transporting the viewer by the experience of visual, sound and scent within the installation. It is the immersive qualities of the pavilions that really interests me.”

McIntosh is a designer, maker and educator and a graduate of the Bartlett School of Architecture and Central Saint Martins. She takes inspiration from movement, patterns, architecture, landscape and the natural world. Using qualities found in her jewellery she works on different scales, from sculptural objects to installations. With precise geometry, the pieces explore the relationship between the body and objects, and how volumes, patterns, planes and forms are seen. Ruup & Form is a contemporary crafts and applied art gallery furthering the blurring lines between art and craft, and presenting carefully curated collections of unique, contemporary crafted objects.

Quiet Garden was curated by Varuna Kaur Kollanethu for Ruup & Form Gallery
See the installation at Somerset House until 27 Jun, Room 24, East Wing