I’ve spent the weekend deliberating over an application to The Cornwall Workshop – I am so excited about this opportunity and having difficulty in not getting up ‘high hopes’ about it – the reason being that I’m sure it will be very competitive and there are only 10 places! I can only do my best after all and if it’s meant to be it will be I keep telling myself. However if I don’t get a place (of course I’ll be disappointed) there is still the Hamish Fulton lecture at Falmouth University and his 2 walks from Penzance that I’ve put myself forward to do as a volunteer.
As well as the usual CV, statement of current practice and images (10 for this) there were questions to answer that really made me think about my practice – the exercise was very useful in itself! Why did I want to be there? What could I bring? I’m now applying these questions to the second year of my MA which starts up again in a few weeks. Then there was 750 words to write on a description and critical analysis of an artwork, event or exhibition seen in the last year. I wrote about the Ian Hamilton Findlay exhibition at the Arnolfini which I saw at the beginning of August – I don’t know if what I wrote was good enough….but here it is,,,,,,,
This was a thought provoking exhibition where I spent several happy hours looking at the work of Ian Hamilton Findlay, who was born in 1925 and died in 2006. He was a prolific artist and poet who was influenced by a diverse range of subjects, poetry, history, philosophy, gardening and landscape design. He is well known for his garden at Little Sparta in Scotland and his ‘concrete poetry’, a term he devised in the 60’s to describe the centrality of language in his work. He invented words, borrowed phrases, and many other semiotic devices that he inscripted onto real objects. In 1961 he founded Wild Hawthorn Press and the exhibition at the Arnolfini presented an extensive collection of his printed, published works, in the form of booklets, postcards, posters, magazines, prints and folded cards, many of the latter, very small in scale. Their ephemeral nature was intentional as Findlay ‘understood publishing as an ongoing process of change’ (Arnolfini brochure). Postcards, more than 700, ranging from one word to a couple of sentences were key to his practice and made his work very accessible to audiences. In fact the artist friend who accompanied me to the exhibition discovered that she was given one of his limited edition cards, inscribed with a Basho quote, when she was a student in the 70’s. A card in the exhibition that caught my attention was, ‘ a rose is a rose is a rose’ which I understood to be written by Gertrude Stein. So I was puzzled by Findlay’s citation to Gertrude Jekyll and it took me some time to connect it to the famous gardener and understand Findlay’s play on words! It really was both fascinating and delightful to become aware of his wit and humour and the many influences that connected with my own practice. The exhibition, however, required a lot of time and the information was almost too much for one visit. As my visit was close to the end of the exhibition I felt very frustrated that I would not have time to make a return trip. I would have really appreciated a catalogue in which to refer to works, which I had not been able to take in during my visit. The brochure provided by the Arnolfini gave essential written information and a couple of images, but it was very limited. A catalogue would have provided useful research material even though there are many published books on Findlay’s artwork in the gallery shop, there weren’t any that comprehensively covered the many published works in the exhibition.
The exhibition in the main gallery also displayed 3 large boats from Findlay’s collection and a series of interventions by contemporary artists that reflected the influence that Findlay has on artists today. A signal bell by Jason Dodge was hidden inside a wall, reminiscent of a shrine and marked on both sides by a light. Christian Flamm had reconstructed a work by Findlay that is either missing or lost from an installation in Stuttgart, this took the form of a ‘compass wind rose’ pointing to Little Sparta and to Stuttgart. Beatrice Gibson responded with a letter outlining her ideas for an exhibition on ‘the way in which gardens organize ideas and movements, like a score for dance or music’ (Arnolfini brochure). The audio installation by Will Holder, reading a number of excerpts from texts about Findlay’s work, from three different points of the room, was very difficult to hear as the voices overlapped with each other. I found it both interfering and irritating while trying to concentrate on reading the works in the exhibition. I wondered why earphones had not been provided although I’m aware that this is not popular with some visitors. However in this instance I feel that they would have worked well. When I enquired about the texts and my difficulty in listening to them, a gallery invigilator informed me that they were available on the internet. This has proved a futile search and consequently I feel very disappointed that the gallery could not have provided a way of accessing these texts in a quiet room (they do have a library on the top floor which would have been ideal). Apparently many visitors shared my view!
I feel very sure that this exhibition will have quite an impact on the development of my own practice and I am grateful to the Arnolfini for the chance to visit such an invigorating exhibition.
I will know about the workshop on 20 September and am keeping my fingers crossed!