Alec Finlay show at Edinburgh's Ingleby Gallery
Quintet of ‘poem-objects’ reflects ideas of memory through biography
To subtitle mention of the artist with the fact that he’s the son of Ian Hamilton Finlay is to run down his own acute artistic sensibility without cause. Yet it’s inescapable here, because this quintet of ‘poem-objects’ reflects ideas of memory through the process of biography, with explicit reference to Alec Finlay’s own family. The objects themselves are a series of cotton handkerchiefs embroidered with slogans (‘father is the war of all things’; ‘family is a shipwreck’; ‘children are the revolution’) and hung, but it’s in Finlay’s accompanying essay descriptions of them that contextual meat is found.
Of course to require a guide to feel a complete sense of understanding isn’t ideal, but Finlay presents the accompanying printed matter alongside the objects they relate to, involving the stories themselves in the gallery display. The texts are written with a mixture of easy charm and academic exactitude, conflating family walks across the Pentlands with the words of the philosopher Heraclitus and revealing the method of the poems’ delivery to be inspired by Finlay’s mother stitching pieces of fabric for his father’s model boats. As a homage to his father’s work and a meditation on the poetic process it’s robust, although in scale it feels very much like a try-out for a larger show.
Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 21 Apr