BOUNTIFUL UL 238 SWEET PROMISE FH 172 GOLDEN GAIN FR 59
Paintings and Drawings by Eileen Hogan Inspired by Ian Hamilton Finlayâ€™s Garden, Little Sparta, Stonypath, Scotland
The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation
for Cathy Published by The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, 2013 The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation is a registered charity (no. 1080197) which supports The Fleming Collection, www.flemingcollection.com ISBN 978-0-9570690-0-8 Design: Webb & Webb ÂŠ The artists and the authors
Eileen Hogan and Stonypath by Frances Spalding
Eileen Hogan: Moments of Vision by Mel Gooding
Shaping the Landscape Ralph Irving in conversation with Cathy Courtney
The Traces Behind Eileen Hogan in conversation with Hester Westley
Captions for the works
Eileen Hogan and Stonypath Frances Spalding
A neat line of fine sable brushes is an unexpected ingredient in Eileen Hogan’s studio. Her finished paintings, of people and places, are never so fixed as to remove entirely a suggestion of improvisation, of happenstance in the positioning of marks, as they fall or coalesce. But sable brushes, and the precision they offer, prove useful in the early stages of a new theme, when colour is added to drawings in sketchbooks or when the first small oils unfold, tentatively, the image often stopping before all four edges are reached. Once the gist of her subject takes hold, these fine brushes give way to more expansive means, alterations in scale and further exploration. All painting is an act of transubstantiation, for the process inevitably transfers the reality of the subject into a different sphere, altering its substance. It is what happens in the course of this translation that makes painting, even in a digital age, such an enormously subtle and capacious vehicle for the human imagination. Not only does the artist bring to this task professional skills and expertise, but also a host of other things - thoughts, ambitions, current concerns, associations both remembered and forgotten - all the gathered richness of his or her being. Hogan’s first visit to Little Sparta was made in 1997, and almost by chance. A painting commission in the Highlands coincided with a visit to Ian Hamilton Finlay by Cathy Courtney, a Camberwell College of Art colleague of Hogan’s, who was conducting an oral history audio recording with Hamilton Finlay for the British Library’s Artists’ Lives series. Stonypath, still to this day accessed by means of an unmade-up track, is not easy to reach and Hogan arrived in seriously bad weather. She found the recording still ongoing in the rain-battered porch and, having been introduced to Finlay, began to wander round the enclosed garden, its poetry and variously sourced ideas expressed
not only through the natural elements of plants, water, stone and earth, but also through the words found inscribed on wood, stone and metal, the product of Finlayâ€™s collaboration with many artists and craftsmen. When the rain lifted, Hogan returned to the house and began to draw, finding her first subject in an outside view of the porch, with Cathy and Ian talking inside amid the plants. At the time she was unaware that this was the start of a series of paintings linked to this garden, marking also a significant shift, for previously her subjects had been drawn from the urban environment. In a metropolis like London, gardens and parks are often claimed to be the lungs of the city. Hoganâ€™s awareness of these spaces began in childhood when she used to walk to school across Tooting Common. The Common came to represent for her a place of escape from an oppressive home life, and ever since she has enjoyed the mental alteration offered by green spaces and the contrast between them and the built environment. In the late 1990s she moved to a small mews house north of Marble Arch, making use of a nearby studio in the same area. Her daily walk between the two, past certain famous squares, gave rise to an urgent need to gain entry. She did so, and before long found herself committed to a series of works dedicated to portraying these squares from the inside. The exhibition Four Squares was held at Londonâ€™s Fine Art Society in 2006. Some of the pictures in this show caught glimpses through the towering trees of the elegant architecture framing each garden. This sense - that a garden gains potency through awareness of what lies beyond - recurs at Little Sparta. Here, however, it is surrounded not by architecture but by the remoteness of fields, moorland and the Pentland Hills. It is these that frame the four-and-a-half acre garden which Ian Hamilton Finlay, poet and writer, first created with his wife Sue Finlay. Their collaboration owed much to the inspiration provided by the classical garden, which, we are told, was intended to be a sacred landscape in which garden and temples were bound together into a religious whole. At Little Sparta, the visitor, moving down paths, past the temple dedicated to Apollo and through what is in effect a collection of small gardens, encounters objects and inscriptions which, by means of disciplined brevity, contain a deeply allusive content. These conceits range widely on familiar themes, deep-rooted in our culture: some evoke the classical world, others the French Revolution or the Second World War, while a further layer explores the lyricism and pastoralism within the classical landscape tradition and the human endeavour of the Scottish fishing industry. They merge panzer tanks with tortoises, classical urns with hand grenades, Gertrude Stein with Gertrude Jekyll, in a way that artfully manipulates the aggressive and the elegiac, the teasing with the profound. On her return visits to Stonypath, Hogan would sketch, draw and take photographs in the garden. At first, chance encounters prevailed. An 8
overheard expletive, fiercely repeated several times by an out-of sight gardener, was jotted down in her sketchbook, along with the naming words found in the numerous inscriptions that punctuate the garden. Sometimes Hamilton Finlay himself would appear and talk for a while before equally suddenly disappearing. In a letter which he wrote in 1966, about the garden, Hamilton Finlay explained that he wanted to keep â€˜simplicity without abandoning the metaphorâ€™. A beautiful example is the trio of beehives on which Hogan began to focus attention after Hamilton Finlay died in 2006, perhaps in partial homage to him. They are one of several works in Little Sparta that link this land-locked garden with the sea. Each of the three hives bears on its front the blue-painted title of a Scottish fishing-boat and its port registration: BOUNTIFUL UL 238; SWEET PROMISE FH 172; GOLDEN GAIN FR 59. Such names resonate with the more usual industry associated with the labour of bees and the making of honey, while the link with the sea unsettles and expands these familiar connotations. The visual appeal of these objects lies also in their workmanlike, sturdy squatness, their 10
sentinel quality, which, combined with their short legs, gives them an alert air, as if ready to scuttle forward. Placed within a grove of cherry trees, they are framed and offset by the verticals created by the bare trunks. The shadows created by these trunks further structure some of Hogan’s paintings, for they slide along the ground, forming useful horizontals or diagonals that both stabilise and complicate the scene. In some of these oils, Hogan adds to the image as it nears completion, by drawing on top of the paint with oil crayon, adding a fresh crispness to the imagery. Hogan’s attention to the mood and language of technique connects with her admiration for the work of Michael Andrews. Lawrence Gowing once said of Andrews that by temperament he wanted ‘definite things to be definite and vague things to remain vague’. Similarly Hogan, even while painting the seductions of landscape, remains astringent. She resists lushness, bravura or any too obvious signature style. Even her fascination with light, its dappling on the beehives acting almost like camouflage, is handled in an almost 11
impersonal manner. We cannot fall back on familiar responses to landscape, for these paintings offer a different way of looking and a romantic strangeness. We are used to seasonal change, but even the winteriness of her winter scene is screened by more layers of feeling and reserve than can be easily interpreted. Another site at Stonypath that appears in these paintings is that which surrounds the goose hut, situated in a far corner of the garden, overlooking Lochan Eck. The hut offers a perfect demonstration of Hamilton Finlay’s ability to create visual metaphor and to place it in a context that allows its meaning full reverberation. We do not need to know about the Little Spartan War, Hamilton Finlay’s battle with the Strathclyde Regional Council, to sense that this small, stalwart but vulnerable structure is in some way a protest against outside forces of oppression. Built to house geese at night, it nestles in the landscape, its roof thatched with heather and its wooden framework incorporating four classical pillars across its front façade. It is based on a drawing by the eighteenth-century architectural theorist Marc-Antoine Laugier who praised rationalism and simplicity in architecture and advocated the kind of shelter provided by primitive huts. But what for Laugier was a symbol of the simple life, at Stonypath attracts further allusions, for the goose hut also recalls Livy’s story of how the noise of the cackling geese on the Capitoline Hill alerted the sleeping Romans to a surprise Gallic invasion. The need to stay on the qui vive is also suggested by the fragile wooden fence that surrounds the building. The informal portraits of Hamilton Finlay in Hogan’s series, the product of snatched moments spent in his company, suggest that he remains a presence in her mind. The same may be true of David Jones whom she also got to know in his later years, visiting him in his hotel room in Harrow. Jones would have understood immediately the weaving together of poetry, art, history, philosophy and gardening in the consecration of ideas at Stonypath. Jones, too, produced his best work in relation to sites that had layered significance. He famously found the sacramental in everyday objects, be it a pair of scissors or a Victorian teapot, and insisted that the real was always incarnate. Hogan returns religiously to the same site once embarked on a subject, and her own painterly activities bear witness to Jones’s deep belief in the importance of the ‘actually loved and known’.
Eileen Hogan: Moments of Vision Mel Gooding
This new body of work by Eileen Hogan maintains the characteristic painterly probity and poetic exactitude that has made her one of the best painters of places and faces in our time. The former term is intended to emphasize the utter lack of any exaggeration of touch, any self-regarding stroke, any otiose accent of colour: every visual moment across the canvas is subordinate to the total effect, an overall impression of time held still and reverberant, made visible in its tremulous presence in things, in the tension or poise of their relations, and by an even intensity of colour and tone, light and shade. ‘Poetic exactitude’ is the outcome of an imaginative concentration that makes the multitudinous infinitesimal aspects of the actual cohere into vision; it is an economy of visual selection that brings an object in a place, a figure or a face into focus, and out of the ceaselessly restless flicker of nature creates a momentary truth of the visual. In UL 238 FH 172 FR 59, beehives at Little Sparta (diptych, 2012), to consider one such image, the configuration of the title objects is realized in time and place with understated precision: the trees of the cherry grove, their variegated bark caught in the play of morning light and shadow, in their turn throw dappled shadow on to the dazzling white of the beehives as they ride the lawn like boats in echelon. The effect is of subtle movement, as if these brilliant objects, their stacked parallels like unfurled sails, were aligned in harbour before sailing forth, or ordered in naval line of battle. This purposeful alignment is emphasized in this instance by the two-part division of the image itself, the canvases determined in line so to speak. Beneath the trees, the light, shade and slight variegations of grass green are precisely registered as seen at this moment, from this angle, in the shimmer and mottle of the instant. We focus on an enclosed sunlit space: beyond the glade is a wall of dark green shadowy shrubbery. Consider now the images, very different in style and feeling, of the artist of Little Sparta, seen in his green world, dressed in his casual gardener’s blue gabardine jacket and sky blue sweater. These are not portraits in any conventional sense; he is presented, rather, as if an aerial emanation of the genius loci, not a figure in the landscape so much as a presence within it. These pictures have a provisional urgency, discovering likeness (to occasion as well as to face and figure) and present-ness not by way of the meticulous over-all procedures that compose the Beehive paintings but in the rapid transference of photographic or immediately visual instantaneity to paper by means of the quickened stroke of charcoal and oil wash. It is an artful quickness that matches that of the mind and spirit animating its subject. The gardens within gardens that compose the little republic at Stonypath are a topographical manifestation of Mind, a European imagination that is inward with land and sea, history and poetry, practicality and philosophy, past and present, nature and art. Ian Hamilton Finlay was no ordinary gardener, no ordinary artist: there is no ordinary poignancy in his presence − then and now − in
this place, in these paintings and studies. The portrait heads catch the turn of the head, the direction of the eye, the emphatic, wary, quizzical and canny weathers of their subject’s face; the figures catch at the stance of stasis-within-mobility of the artist’s meditative mode, the mind stalking poetic reality within its garden domain. The dynamics of the two distinct versions of poetic exactitude I have defined in the paintings and studies are, of course, analogous to aspects of the constructive psychology of perception itself. We make the world we see – sometimes with deliberation, sometimes in a kind of open passiveness in the face of the actual − by innumerable just such moments of concentration, with rapidly changing shifts of focus from near to far, momentary isolations of the still object within the visual flux, ceaseless adjustments in direction of view and between prospect and detail, or sudden realizations of natural, human or animal presence. In these paintings and sketches Hogan’s consummate art lies, however, in creating a composed and elegant moment of vision that does not merely imitate phenomenological experience, however effectively, but seems to invest it with some deeper resonance, as if to pluck out of time what Patrick Kavanagh called ‘the passionate transitory’ – an instant of reality that holds an affective revelation, a psychological myth, a vision that appears from within in response to the visible without. The painting is nothing less than a material-poetic reciprocation of the intelligent inner eye to the sensuous world, the visual proposition of an idea in the spirit of William Carlos Williams’s great watchword: ‘No ideas but in things!’ A tree, an empty seat, snow, a doorway just visible beyond the railings of a London square garden, beehives at Little Sparta, the artist-gardener glimpsed, emergent, beyond the clipped hedge of an inner garden: the richness of emblematic or metaphorical possibilities discovered in these simple things gives Hogan’s paintings their gentle power, their unassertive eloquence and their poetic force. There is needless to say no contrivance in these representations, no deliberate or fortuitous symbolism: Patrick Heron’s wonderful exclamation ‘I love all images, I hate all symbols’ would no doubt commend itself to Hogan, whose great strength as a painter, as I have indicated, lies in attention to immediate visual fact, an attention made all the closer by a temperamental predisposition to see things as what they are, to love what she sees, and to seek their accurate and truthful representation without gestural rhetoric. There is no sentimentality in this loving attention to those things in the world that attract Hogan’s interest and affection. It is animated, rather, by an emotional integrity that derives from an acute psychological sensitivity to the specific places that she has chosen as the subjects of successive series of paintings, and a creative necessity to inhabit those places emotionally and intellectually as a means to the disclosure of their hidden possibilities of meaning. These observations, it seems necessary to say, derive from what is to be inferred from the paintings themselves, in relation to their characteristically tactful and understated deliberation of facture: a quality manifest in the paintings in a certain 19
dryness of touch, and a strict and un-emotive control of atmospheric tonalities, and a lack of any showy painterly effect; in the studies it is to be remarked in their unelaborate and economic descriptions of banal actualities (a fold in a sweater, grey hair unkempt in the outdoors, the inexpressive drop of his left arm by the poet-artist’s side), and in the establishment of objects and figures by the most rapid oil wash and charcoal adumbrations within the empty space of the support: image-ideas seeming to come into sudden visibility. (‘Loss is a part of completion’ reads a sketchbook note.) In the Beehive paintings one senses a continuity of the psychological intensity that is a definitive quality of the beautiful series of Hogan’s London Four Squares paintings. In those paintings there is always a sense of enclosure, of a world within a world, a green place, sequestered from the urban world that surrounds it and always just visible or implied, its townhouse fronts glimpsed from behind the encircling railings. These gardens of Hogan’s have much in common with those invoked in Marvell’s marvellous poem: they are places in which the ‘Society’ that surrounds them in those grand houses in those grand squares ‘is all but rude/ to this delicious solitude’, and where ‘the Mind…withdraws into its happiness’: The Mind, that Ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find; Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other Worlds, and other Seas; Annihilating all that’s made To a green Thought in a green shade. The Garden by Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678) Those London gardens, which Hogan endows with those very enchantments of retreat and solitude, may seem to have something in common with those gardens-within-gardens that make up Little Sparta. In each case we are presented with the image of a little hortus conclusus unencumbered by any religious symbolism, but in which each enclosure is emblematic within a coherent artistic programme of complex and cumulative psychological import. Hogan has responded to Stonypath in the knowledge that it manifests in concrete terms a powerful idea that derives at least in part from the Romantic English landscape garden, with its susceptibility to a variably discursive reading-through-walking of moral and political relations, its deliberate placements of classical monuments (images and reminders), its intimate enclosures and far vistas. But at Stonypath, its close cultivation set within rugged and extensive open moorland, the mythopoetic narrative is imbued with homages and ironies, ambiguities and contrasts, and is eloquently expressive of a deeply poetic apprehension of the natural world as within and outside the informing consciousness. 20
The garden-state of Little Sparta is a politico-poetic creation reflective of the mind that has made it, an imagination that actively encompasses post-Enlightenment European culture, in all its facets, within the material life of the ever-present and never-ending economics of land and sea. It is an imagination that recognizes that the naming of the turning months of the agricultural year may be profoundly political, and that the naming of a fishing boat may signify human recognition of Nature and hope of material plenitude, identify its origins in real places, and find its emblem in a shining hive. Those beehives in their harbour-glade are aptly named to register their metaphorical transformations: Bountiful (of Ullapool), Sweet Promise (of Falmouth), Golden Gain (of Fraserborough). Hogan’s paintings of Stonypath reflect in their turn a quietly contemplative imagination responding with an acutely transformative sensibility to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s artful horticulture. It is the work of one artist listening with creative attention and inwardness to the creative utterance of another. Taken together as a series (a desideratum crucial to the full appreciation of the individual works) they constitute also the visual-narrative of something more: a progress towards a kind of psychological and emotional release, a thematic movement outwards from enclosure and confinement (however ‘delicious’ a ‘solitude’ the imaginary gardens of poetry and art may afford the mind) towards a freedom of space and vista, an openness of spirit. This theme finds its most richly evocative expression in Goose Hut (2012), one of the latest of the Stonypath works. In this, the ‘wild’ landscape of rising hill, heather brae and blue sky is viewed as from the Lochan Eck, the open pool (a little enclosed sea, a mediterranean) close to the edge of the hortus. At centre is the empty and locked goose hut constructed to house the clipped-winged domestic geese (long since gone) that once lived on the pond. This structure, a square house, pictured head-on as a classical aedicule − an image redolent of psychic enclosure in poetry and phenomenological theory alike – is itself fenced in and isolated from the surrounding ground. In the open land beyond this potent emblem of controlled confinement is glimpsed a contemplative figure, a presence in a sail-white shirt. Goose Hut is, in the context of the series, an image of extreme poignancy, presenting a vista of psychic freedom as from a world within bounds to a wider, aerial world beyond. In this it again enacts that dynamic, at once perceptual and ontological, central to the relation of Little Sparta to the surrounding land: that the one is necessary to the other; both are elements of the true ground of being. In the retrospective light of this reading, the Stonypath paintings can be seen as thematically continuous with those of the Four Squares series. For it was from those urban islands, squares within squares, that this quiet artistic and psychic odyssey began.
Shaping the Landscape
Ralph Irving has worked at Little Sparta for over twenty years. This interview has been edited by Cathy Courtney from a recording made at Little Sparta in July 2012.
CC: Can you say where we are?
RI: We’re in the porch, I think we would call it, at Little Sparta. Conservatory is maybe a wee bit too grand. Out of the window you see the entrance into the original front garden where Ian started with the sunken garden. I think it was a potato patch, and he made it into the sunken garden. The front garden relates to a sea garden, the poem with all the names of fishing boats on the paving stones, the sound of the sea in the trees.
How different is Little Sparta now from when you first came in 1991?
When I first came the area next to the sunken garden was all wilderness. There was no development, no paths, the nettles were shoulder high. It’s so much bigger now with the expansion of the English Parkland, all the new groves, walkways and glades. I had a great free rein with Ian, he trusted me. If he didn’t like it, we changed it back but that rarely happened. Ian worried about anybody working in his garden who would cut away too much or do ‘regulation council gardening,’ which is not what Little Sparta is about. Anything I did developed a harmony, so that the paths faded into the natural growth and overgrowth. You have to soften the edges so you’re invited into nature.
When you say creating spaces, how did you decide how big a space or what form it would take?
That was relatively easy because I had the gauge of the garden. It’s on a gauge of a wee walkway path, not a motorway. So you would open up a little grove, and it wouldn’t be a huge space. I think that was what frightened Ian about the English Parkland when we really first opened it up. It was a daunting experience. We developed it a bit at a time; I encouraged Ian to keep it open and get some light in and have the lawn and a few ponds. It’s taken ten-fifteen years to get to the state it’s at now. It was probably a bit of mess down there for two to three years before we really got it acceptable.
How did the English Parkland develop?
Taking it down and flattening it was about ten days of continual cutting. We had a Honda ride-on machine and just went at it hell for leather, breaking it up into mush. I had to put in drainage because it was a soggy area; you couldn’t walk on it, you’d sink. It was sloping all the way down and it had to be levelled a little bit. The grass was all seeded by hand. When we made the wave sculpture, 27
Ian made a little pattern of waves of sand and said, ‘Can you do that down there?’ I said ‘No, you can’t just dig a hole, it’ll gather water. We’ll have to build on top of that. A hundred and fifty tons of soil, I think we brought in; that was all hand-shaped to make the waves.
When were the beehives added?
That must be fourteen years ago. The names on the hives are relative to honey or bees, Bountiful, or relative to his fishing boat theme. The royal blue lettering was done by Jim Brennan.
Probably one wouldn’t be enough. If two’s odd, maybe not balanced, three’s a group. With three, there’s harmony in amongst the trees. They’re cherry trees. When the beehives came they were natural, reddish wood – cedar. It would have been Ian’s decision to change them to white. In the sister garden that Ian did in the south of France, they are cedar still, and they’re cedar at Jupiter Artland, where there’s another of Ian’s installations.
The beehives are unlike other works at Little Sparta which were made to Ian’s specifications by the craftspeople with whom he collaborated?
The beehives in the English Parkland are a traditional design and were bought, not bespoke. A classical country garden would have a classic beehive. As Ian said, ‘Art can be a small adjustment.’ You can adjust it by putting a text on it and making it individual.
What was it like to have an artist come to paint the beehives?
It’s a miracle, the way she captures the light and the actual atmosphere of them. That was sheer delight to see them painted like that.
How much do you know about the creation of Lochan Eck?
Lochan Eck existed when I came. It’s a lovely setting; the burn comes down the hill and has been dammed to make the lochan. It was Ian’s dream. The capital and the column resting in it relate to the classical legend of the city under the sea. It looks like the sea quite often rather than an inland loch, because it’s very windy here, quite choppy. The deepest part would probably be just over 5 feet, overall it’s about two and a half feet. If he wasn’t fishing, Ian might be out for a wee row in the better weather. The fish in the loch are rainbow trout and brown trout. Ian stocked it. He had them brought up and let into the loch. That was great excitement. The fish were trapped in tanks when they came from the farm and the fish farm would have been quite busy– so it was nice to see they were out, free.
Why did Ian introduce the geese?
If he made a model boat, he was always interested in the fact that it would float properly, not to have a boat that looked good but won’t float because it doesn’t have proper ballast. Getting the geese was perhaps like finishing the lochan. They were a purpose for it. You’re creating a complete thing, a small environment, the whole idea of it is real and not fantasy.
And the goose hut?
The goose hut is both Gothic and Scottish, with columns and mock capitals – planks of wood thatched in between with heather, which is the Scottish way. The fence is to make an enclosure, to represent a line of defence, to do with the stocking of a Gothic encampment. I had to learn to thatch quickly as it was getting a bit bald and patchy when I arrived. It became an annual chore, to re-thatch it. The geese were territorial - I think Ian used the word ‘naughty’ – aggravating the visitors, so the geese went. There were a series of black swans, who all went through various types of habits and territorial issues.
What is the planting on the slope behind the goose hut?
It’s heather and grass, left to go to seed, and now you get willowherb, which is prolific – each pod produces 30,000 seeds. Willowherb was introduced here in the Victorian times via the railway lines. Every time the trains passed, the white feathery seeds were drawn up and completely covered the whole country. Ian liked willowherb, he didn’t see it as a weed, weeds were wild flowers, really.
How would you describe your role at Little Sparta?
It is Ian’s garden. I’ve had the privilege of working with him, of collaborating with him and him liking it. I was always trying to make something new that would give him a bit of cheer and joy. When he was nearly eighty he said to me, ‘How did I get to this age so quickly? I’m old now.’ I said, ‘What more would you do if you had longer?’ He said, ‘I’d like to do more of the same.’ He would have kept putting more and more in. He had all these ideas still to do. There would have been more, but we can’t do it without him.
The Traces Behind HW We’ve met to talk about the series of paintings you’ve made that were triggered by visits to Little Sparta. Could we begin by talking about Little Sparta itself? What is it?
A conversation edited from a recording between Eileen Hogan and Hester Westley in Pembroke Studios, London, May 2012, edited by Fitz Smith.
EH Little Sparta is the garden at Stonypath created by Ian Hamilton Finlay and Sue Finlay, which they carved out of the Pentland Hills. I went there in September 1997 for the first time. It had an enormous impact on me. I was intrigued because it’s an enclosed garden. I’m very interested in enclosed gardens, and green spaces in an urban environment have always been a key part of my work. Little Sparta is enclosed by moors rather than buildings, but what excites me, as with the urban squares, is the contrast between the garden and its surroundings. I’ve rarely worked in the open landscape, and it was this distinction between the world Ian had created and the farmland which abuts it that let me know it was a fertile place for me. Little Sparta is, of course, a poet’s garden and incorporates texts; it’s full of echoes from Greek philosophy and classical mythology. Again, this correlated strongly with subject matter I’ve used since a formative period when I lived in Greece as a student at the British School in Athens. So there was a sort of shock of recognition in terms of my source material. In important ways my paintings have almost nothing to do with Ian’s artworks, but more to do with my reaction to him and his environment, an emotional response which became the trigger for this series of paintings and drawings. Like earlier paintings, this series is to do with a particular sort of space and the geometric shapes within it, but most of all it engages with flickering and changing light.
With the portrait heads of Ian, what were you trying to record in that series?
Something quite fleeting. They’re not in any way ‘finished’ and I like that. I like the idea of watching somebody over a period of time - it’s rather like finding a place in the garden that I want to work in and then going back to that place over and over again and becoming very familiar with it. When I first saw him, he was in the porch making an oral history recording with Cathy Courtney, with the rain hammering on the glass roof and condensation on the panes. Sitting outside I drew them both that afternoon. On a subsequent visit to Little Sparta, Ian was waiting at the gate and wanted to go out. It was surprising because he had been agoraphobic in the past. He asked to go to The Coffee Spot, a café in Biggar, and some of the portraits are based on drawings I did there. At Little Sparta while I was drawing, he would suddenly appear and chat for a bit and then disappear. So I drew him in a rather fragmented way over several years,
Can you talk a little bit more about the process of painting these works from your notes and sketches?
Walking and stopping to draw are always the beginning for me, scribbling and making notes in my sketchbook. I find out what connects me to a place, or even what I think, through drawing. The next stage is to find the position where I will work and, once decided, I always work from the same spot. Sitting there for long periods is important, not necessarily because of what I produce (I’m usually painting and taking photographs at this point), but because staring and observing become a sort of ritual and make the place mine. The next stage is in the studio when I surround myself with all the drawings and paintings I have done on the spot and I also enlarge the photographs l have taken. I’m creating my experience of being in Little Sparta within the studio. Memory is very important, even directly working from observation involves memory, memories of seeing the garden in other lights and at other seasons, memories of Ian and others being there. Then, more drawings on a larger scale, until I gradually build up an idea of what the larger paintings will be. What they’re about, actually—and what I think my work is always about—is a change in light. Weather in England is never static, but that’s particularly so at Little Sparta. You can start the day very dark and brooding, then there is brilliant sunshine and then it rains or even hails and then the sun might come out again.
Light, dappled light, is as an important compositional component; has it always been this way in your painting?
Well, I’m very interested in shadow and the way shadows show you things and hide things. I’m energised by the way light transforms space.
In these paintings the effect of light is so important; how do you achieve it?
With the large beehive painting I might have used a very pale coloured ground, such as unbleached titanium oxide, to begin with. I like working with glazes. I make very small marks to start with, and then build up glazes over them, so that a kind of ghost of them remains, but it becomes a solid tone. Sometimes I scrape layers of paint off, which also leaves a trace of what went before.
The beehive appears again and again from different perspectives, angles, and formal arrangements; what resolution are you searching for?
There are three beehives in a cherry orchard. The trees are tall - I like very much that geometric structure; there’s an austerity that appeals to me in terms of the geometry. Although I’ve been to Little Sparta often now, I’ve always missed the trees in blossom; that’s quite nice in a way, because, over my return visits, I’ve come to engage with the idea of the banality of the cherry orchard and the fact that one sees the traces of the blossoms rather than the full flowering. It’s as if I’m looking for something very particular and don’t quite know what it is, but once I’ve found it, I recognise it. Then I’m very strict about what it is I want to do, and that’s all I want to do. I want to watch the way the light changes from that exact spot, and that particular geometry becomes crucial. There’s also something about that shape of the beehive, and particularly that it’s white, and you get that flickering light which sometimes can be like camouflage, that I find exciting. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s a piebald effect and it thrills me. It’s as if I’m looking for my language within all the little images that I’ve collected and all the combinations of notes and jottings that will sustain my interest to keep the larger work going.
At what point does the painting take on its own life? When do you move away from any of the preliminary sketches?
I usually work on Hahnemuhle paper with oil paint. I plan the painting carefully and at that stage I work with the paper flat on a table. When the paper is almost covered with paint I put it on an easel and it’s then that it takes on its own life and I start being freer, using much larger brushes. It seems to take an awful lot of planning and work to get to the point when I can be spontaneous. I often start to make large changes at this stage and lose some of the things that I’ve spent maybe a couple of weeks, or more, working on and feel precious about, which takes a certain amount of courage. Recently I’ve started to use Sennelier oil pastels to draw with, so the painting becomes more like a drawing just as I’m finishing it. So it’s a weird working process, really—like knitting or embroidery, in a way, which I unpick and almost destroy, leaving traces behind.
SELECTED SOLO AND TWO-PERSON EXHIBITIONS
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2013 New Art Centre, Roche Court Wiltshire; Fleming Collection 2010 All England Lawn Tennis Club Wimbledon; Yale Center for British Art with Romilly Saumarez Smith 2009 Victoria and Albert Museum with Romilly Saumarez Smith 2008 The Fine Art Society London with Leonard Rosoman 2007 Eileen Hogan’s Poetry Box San Francisco Center for the Book 2006 Four Squares The Fine Art Society London 2005 Portraits, Power and Politics Buckinghamshire County Museum 2003 Poetry in Progress London College of Fashion Space Landscapes and Seascapes Bourne Gallery Edinburgh 2000 Chairs and Shadows The Fine Art Society, London with Margaret MacDonald Casson 1999 Paintings, Prints and Books University of Brighton Gallery and Bankside Gallery London 1997 The Fine Art Society London, also 1993, 1992, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1982 and 1980 1988 University of Alabama 1986 Morehead University, Kentucky 1984 The Imperial War Museum, London 1983 British Council, Athens 1982 University of Kentucky, Ohio University
2014 Yale Center for British Art 2012 - 2013 BP Portrait Award National Portrait Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter 2011 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition also annually from 1976 except 1999 Discerning Eye, also 2010, 2004, 2003, 2001, 1990 2009 BP Portrait Award National Portrait Gallery, Southampton City Art Gallery, the Dean Gallery, Edinburgh 2007 BP Portrait Award National Portrait Gallery, Laing Gallery, National Portrait Gallery of Scotland 2006 Unregulated Printing Cambridge University; re:INVENTING, ING Bank and the National Maritime Museum 2005 Recent Acquisitions Yale Center for British Art 2004 The Writer and the Garden, British Library 2002 Processes of Renewal Toshiba Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum; Singer Friedlander/Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition Mall Galleries also 1999 2001 The Hunting Art Prize also 2000, 1997, 1994 2000 Tullie House City Museum & Art Gallery Carlisle 1998 Brisbane City Art Gallery 1994 Ten Years On Victoria & Albert Museum and the Gleeson Library San Francisco
SELECTED COMMISSIONS AND AWARDS 2012 Olympic Artist (tennis); Arts and Humanities Research Council Award 2009 Championship Artist All England Lawn Tennis Club Wimbledon 2005 Muir Trust Artist-in-Residence: Buckinghamshire County Museum 2002 Arts and Humanities Research Board Award for The Poetry Box 2001 Stamps commissioned by The Royal Mail The British Coast (also Centenary of the National Trust 1993, Centenary of Alfred Tennyson 1991 and 150th anniversary of Thomas Hardy’s birth 1990) 1999 Churchill Travelling Fellowship: New Technology and the Arts. Artist in Residence at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Australia 1997 Association for Business Sponsorship for the Arts Award 1994 British Council award for exhibition in USA 1993 Appointed Professor, University of the Arts London
PUBLIC COLLECTIONS All England Lawn Tennis Club, Brigham Young University Utah, British Library, Buffalo University New York, Cambridge University Library, Esme Fairbairn Trust, Faringdon Collection, Gleeson Library University of San Francisco, Government Art Collection, Graves Art Gallery Sheffield, Stadsbibliotheek Haarlem, Houghton Library Harvard, Imperial War Museum London, Kent County Council, The Library of Congress Washington DC, London Borough of Camden, National Library of Australia, Newberry Library Chicago, Nuffield Foundation, Penguin Art Collection, RijksmuseumMeermanno Hague, Royal Academy of Arts London, Sheffield City Art Gallery, Stanford University, Tullie House City Museum Carlisle, Victoria and Albert Museum London, University of the Arts London, University of Guildford, University of Tulsa Oklahoma, Wake Forest University North Carolina, Williamson Art Gallery and Museum Merseyside, Yale Center for British Art 41
PAINTINGS AND DRAWINGS 2,3
UL 238 FH 172 FR 59, beehives at Little Sparta, diptych, 2012, oil paint and charcoal on paper, overall size 177 x 244 cm
Pages from Eileen Hoganâ€™s sketchbook;
10,11 From SHADOW n. THE HOUR HAND, 2012, oil paint on paper 54 x 111 cm 12,13 UL 238 FH 172 FR 59, 2012, oil paint, charcoal and oil pastel on paper, 91 x 154 cm 15
Goose Hut, 2012, oil paint, on paper, 115 x 100 cm
Studies for UL 238 FH 172 FR 59, 2008, oil paint on wood panels, 20 x 20cm
UL 238 FH 172 FR 59, 2011, oil paint, charcoal and oil pastel on paper, 102 x 106 cm
Bryanston Square, 2010, oil paint and charcoal on paper, 110 x 106 cm
Bryanston Square, 2009, etching, 50 x 60 cm
Ian Hamilton Finlay, triptych from 1997 to 2006, oil paint on card, each 25 x 20 cm
22,23 Studies of Ian Hamilton Finlay 2005, oil paint on paper, 45 x 98 cm 25
Study of Ian Hamilton Finlay, 2005, charcoal on paper, 45 x 98 cm
Sketchbook painting of Ralph Irving, 2012
From SHADOW n. THE HOUR HAND, 2012, oil paint on paper 35 x 73 cm
Ian Hamilton Finlay, 2009, oil and charcoal on paper, 153 x 183 cm
Study of Ian Hamilton Finlay, 2005, oil paint on paper, 8 x 4 cm
Studies of Ian Hamilton Finlay, 2009, oil on paper, each 9 x 14 cm
Ian Hamilton Finlay walking towards the Roman Garden, 2009, charcoal and oil paint on paper, 136 x 99 cm
Ian Hamilton Finlay walking towards the Roman Garden, 2012, oil paint on paper, 122 x 120 cm
FH 172, 2010, oil paint and charcoal on paper, 184 x 142 cm
PHOTOGRAPHS Cathy Courtney 6; 7; 26 (Ralph Irving, 2010); 28 (Eileen Hogan, Ian Hamilton Finlay, 1997); 36 (Eileen Hogan drawing at Little Sparta, 2005) Eileen Hogan Endpapers Paintings at the New Art Centre, Roche Court; 29 (Ian Hamilton Finlay, Cathy Courtney at Lochan Eck, 1997); (black swans on Lochan Eck, 1997); 34 (Ian Hamilton Finlay, Cathy Courtney, 2005); 36 (Ian Hamilton Finlay, 2005) Sandra Lousada 7 (Eileen Hogan, Pembroke Studios, 2012); 32,33 (Pembroke Studios, 2012)
Ralph Irving was interviewed by Cathy Courtney, 2012, for National Life Stories: Artists’ Lives, British Library reference C466/333 © The British Library Board. The recording was funded by Yale Center for British Art.
Eileen Hogan www.eileenhogan.co.uk
Eileen Hogan was interviewed by Hester Westley 2012, National Life Stories: Artists’ Lives, British Library reference C466/326 © The British Library Board.
National Life Stories www.bl.uk/nls
Ian Hamilton Finlay was interviewed by Cathy Courtney, 1993-1997, for National Life Stories: Artists’ Lives, British Library reference C466/14/01-08. © The British Library Board. The recording was funded by the Henry Moore Foundation with additional support from Victoria Miro.
Little Sparta Trust www.littlesparta.org.uk
Webb and Webb www.webbandwebb.co.uk
Published to accompany exhibitions at New Art Centre, Roche Court, Wiltshire www.sculpture.uk.com
Photography of paintings by David Wood The Fleming Collection, London www.f lemingcollection.co.uk Yale Center for British Art, New Haven www.britishart.yale.edu
THANK YOU Wendy Baron Madeleine Bessborough Cathy Courtney Elisabeth Fairman Stephen Feeke Wilma Gilmour Mel Gooding Ralph Irving Bridget Jackson Pete Jackson Roxanne Rosoman
Pia Simig Selina Skipwith Dan Smith Fitz Smith Perry Smith Frances Spalding Brian Webb Hester Westley Judy Weston David Wood David Wyatt