Saturday 30 September 2017

West Coast in the Pishing Rain

Christ, you think. A day trip to the west coast and it's pishing fucking rain - again.

You could think that way if you like. 

Or you could look at it from a different angle...

This is not just the West of Scotland in the pishing rain. This is a place of abundance. It is the land where lichens and mosses thrive. This is the North Atlantic Rainforest.

Looks a bit different now, doesn't it? Now we're in the rainforest?

Look at moss on that rock!

Revel in this beautiful fern with raindrops on each tip!

Lift your face to the rain and feel it soak into you... you're no made of sugar, our west coast mothers would say, get ootside - you'll no melt!

And... if you wait long enough, then even on the west coast the sun eventually appears.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Little Sparta

For years I have wanted to visit Little Sparta. This is the sculpture garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay, the artist who - in my mind at least - created many witty works such as the Straw Locomotive and portable, suitcase-sized 'Stones of Destiny' with carrying handles.

He dedicated his later years to building up an extraordinary garden in an unpromising location - 280m up the southern end of the Pentlands at Dunsyre, as middle-of-nowhere as you can get in Central Scotland.

We arrived at this off-the-beaten track location on a rainy, lowering September day, not quite sure what to expect. A walk of about half a mile up a farm track leads past a mausoleum featuring an embossed design of a heavy machine gun and a nonsensical quote about Arcadia.

We walked into the farmyard and saw some wilting strawberry plants covered with green netting that was held up by coloured wooden sticks with 'fête des fraises' written on them. We looked at each other. So far, so unpromising.

But things started looking up when we walked into a small garden with pond, enclosed on three sides by buildings and the fourth by trees. Here a fairly standard, 18th century Scottish house has been decorated with painted-on Corinthian columns - the fluting of the columns carved into the stonework of the house. You couldn't do that these days with planning permission!

Around the garden, dense with an interesting variety of trees, are slabs with phrases in Latin, French, German, and English. Finlay seemed to particularly like the Romans, the French Revolution, and the Second World War. We are invited to contemplate that nothing happened in the world between these epochs.

The Second World War sculptures seem jarringly juvenile when juxtaposed against the erudite Latin and French quotations, sculptures such as this fine vase decorated with a picture of a Japanese kamikaze flying bomb:

Over a stile is an area of moorland with a lochan, monumental blocks, views over the Pentlands and a stand of trees entitled 'the grove in harmony with itself'.

And what of the Straw Locomotive? I would still recommend a visit to Little Sparta, but it turns out I was mixing up Ian Hamilton Finlay and George Wyllie, whose art has delighted and intrigued many - and, unlike Finlay I suspect, had the gift of communicating his ideas in a manner appealing to all.