lan Hamilton FinlayK home. l.ittle Sparta. near l)uns_vrc. is a place where art and nature join to create a garden that has become an icon of
‘ cultural history as vvell as a beautiful. organic space. '1 recs become the
i classical columns of a 'l emple to l’hilemon and Baucis mortals honoured by the gods for their kindness. Apollo carries a gttn and
cat \ ed stuttes become \‘isttal metaphors in an iconic space where language transcends vvords. Finlay himself is a man saddened by events yet remaining resolute in his art.
'I he work of this important artist vs ill be featured in three exhibitions opening in and around Fdinburgh
i ov er the next tvvo months. and typically avoiding tnain establishment venues lhesc mark the Bicentenary of the French Revolution which itself has formed one of the most important themes.
both symbolically and culturally . in
the development of Finlays milk.
I Recent events vvhich led to the
I hasty and unfortunate cancellation
by the French (iovernment of
' Finlay ‘s commission to design a
garden celebrating the Declaration
ol the Rightsof Man at Versailles.
have stimulated areas of questioning riddled \\ ith paradox if one accepts the importance of any form ofart practice to meditate and critically reflect upon the images of its time
and its relation to a shared cultural past.
()n the eve ofthe French Revolutionary celebrations. Lorna]. Waite met one ofScotland‘s mostcontroversial artists. lan Hamilton Finlay. at his home and discussed personal revolutions and new work.
Absurd accusations of Nazism have been levelled at Finlay for his use of the \Vaffen SS insignia incorporated into his major vvork ()SSU. exhibited in both France and Britain. this. in tact. meditates upon the relationship between nature and culture. the lightning flashes of the SS emblem signifying the horror. in recent living memory. of the reduction of humanity to the lovvest rank. It is paradoxically because Finlay uses the symbols of abused povve r in a way which provides no convenient method for their marginalisation from liuropean civilisation that he is accused of complicity in anti-semitism. the v oraciousness and zeal \vith vvhich these claims vvcre pursued led to the cancellation of the Versailles project and his participation in the Bicentarv celebrations. ' Finlay is a persistent and erudite commentator on culture and the architect olobiects. at‘tefacts and political gardens which are mediated by this. His vvork is rooted in response to vvhat he perceives to be ‘the cultural and spiritual impoverishment of a secularized society" vvhich has lost the influence of history. does not recognise the importance of the aspiration tovvards revolution and believes in the reality of the symbols of povver. ' (‘onnections are built in his vvork betvveen the structures of possible tneantng in myth and the symbols of
povver in a tnilitat'i/ed civilisation the battleship. tank. aircraft carrier and guillotine. Although Finlay's vvork is allegorical. it has a plurality of meanings which both confuse and threaten us. We can choose to interpret the aircraft carrier as a representation of vveaponry. as a
symbol for the continuation of povver
and terror throughout history. Its reality as taboo is all too clear ifone notes that its depiction is considered with unease. as a kind of transgression -» feelings characteristic of the situation in France. l lis symbols are invested vvith greater meaning than representation of function and are to be interpreted vvithin vvider discourses invoking the subtle narratives of neoclassicism and (it'eels‘ ttty‘thology.
llis art is both a mark in nature invoking and celebrating the ideals tilelttssicisttt and the aesthetics of geometry. and also a romantic expression vvhich values virtue and the heroic. Robespierre. ('laudc. Aeneas and Dido are made to resonate vvith modern time. but not without humour. Aspiration to the ideal of (order. nature and culture) is applauded. yet 'l'error alvvays exists. In Finlay's garden. sculpted vvords question their physical existence in a manner vvhieh sees beyond the fashion of its ovvn time. yet also admits the corruption ofculture.
Finlay further explores the archaeology of culture in his ( 'rate Furniture. nevv vvork to be shown at the 3(v‘)(iallery during the [idinburgh Festival. In this furniture. Finlav‘s interest.
in l'topia is explored. with reference to the principles of the De Stijl group. Founded by Van l)oesberg in l‘) l 7. these artists attempted to combine artistic asceticism with a universal harmony. Finlay violates the purity of his ovvn compositions by including the diago- nal of the guillotine in the cheaply made. \vooden structures. Further vvork by Finlay can be seen at l’ittenvveem in July. 'l'liermulor- the Month of I [eat in the Republican (’alendar inspired by Rousseau and composed by the poet. Fabré d‘liglantine — reflects on the execution of the Robespierrists and the failure of the revolutionary ideal. the failed L'topia signified by this period is a metaphor for the Stations of the .Iacobin ('ross. For Finlay. in revolution. politics may become nature.
Yet he aims simultaneously ‘to celebrate in some sincere kind of vvay. an understanding of what culture can be’. believing that ‘a vvorld vvhich only thinks of itself as being cultured is more vicious. less avvare of any aspiration tovvards the spiritual and more fixed on money. ambition and greed'. he represents a distinct and important strand of cultural thought.
For [an llamilton Finlay. culture is both real and desired. yet it has its silences. To deny this is to operate some form of cultural censorship vvhich is frightened to talk about povver (and by this denial reinforces that povv er) and does not allovv this dimension to function as art.
Yet the garden is alvvays there. l’ort/olio (ial/ery. 4.? ( 'antllema/v'er Ron: l’ltologrtlp/ts ()flltt' I'lnlily garden by Martin (ireen/ia/g/t 0—29 July.
Kellie Lodging (iallery. High Street. l’ittenn'eem 3/ July—l4 xt ug. Part of the Royal Burg/i ol'l’ittenwee/n l’evtit'al. tltegallery willlies/toning t/ie/io'niture l.a ( ~lutmhre (lu l’atriot
for (lie/iris! tune as well as samplers.
ceramics and prints based on the French Revolution.
.i’()‘)(iallery. (‘oivgate ('rate Furniture will be shown during .‘l ugust.
Lyrical photographs at Finlay‘s garden by