Friday, April 18, 2008

The sea's waves' sheaves

Ian Hamilton Finlay, Sheaves, 1970

Now showing at the V&A in London - Certain Trees: The Constructed Book, Poem and Object (an exhibition I discussed last year after it had been in Paris), which features artists engaged in a 'dialogue between the natural world and its classification and presentation through the idiom of language'. The approach is illustrated here by Ian Hamilton Finlay's poem-book, 'the SEA'S WAVES' SHEAVES' shown above, a 'small folder with 3 leaf concertina-folded card', published by the artist's Wild Hawthorn Press. Works like this and the kinetic poem below are easy to imagine in an exhibition entitled 'Certain Landscapes'. Some other Ian Hamilton Finlay pieces in Certain Trees are 'Stonechats', 'Wave', 'A Woodland Flute', 'A Butterfly Garden', 'Two Trees', 'Wildflower' and 'Landscape / Interior'.

Ian Hamilton Finlay, Canal Stripe Series 4, 1964

Writing in The Independent, Tom Lubbock has praised Certain Trees, contrasting it with the often 'vain and thoughtless' approach of the famous artists gathered together in the V&A's concurrent exhibition Blood on Paper – The Art of the Book. He writes that the Certain Trees artists 'never forget where books come from: there's natural gravitation toward the subject of wood and trees. The artists dwell wittily on their materials – on letters, typefaces, inks, paper, printing, the way books work. Steve Wheatley's Over the Hills and Far Away is a book whose leaves are cut in the shapes of dipping hills; overlapped, they become a receding valley. Thomas Clark prints the words "small grey bird of dusk" in deep blue letters, but the vowels are printed in grey, like birds in an evening sky. The five vowels, you notice, run a e i o u ... Stuart Mills' booklet The Bridle Path is Filled with Clouds has a photo of puddles, brimming with reflections. The page opens and reveals. There's a knack for making imaginative leaps from the physical world of the book to the larger universe.'

Stuart Mills, Three Swallows in the River Meadows, 1969

Thanks to Colin Sackett, whose books/poems/artworks feature in the exhibition, for alerting me to the arrival of Certain Trees at the V&A and pointing me to the Tom Lubbock article.


The Garden Monkey said...


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arcady said...

Several years ago I had a chance meeting with Finlay's painter, who was putting the 'words onto the walls' for an exhibition at the Edinburgh Botanic garden. He had been working with Finlay for some time, and we had an interesting discussion about the development of his style, his attachment to fishing boats, and his fierce attention to detail. I got the impression that being Finlay's painter was not an easy task, though he clearly inspired devotion.