Sunday, 28 July 2013


UL 238, FH 172 and FR 59 (diptych), 2012, oil and charcoal on paper (182.5x238cm) © The Artist
Fleming Collection, 13 Berkeley St, Mayfair, until 17.8.03

'Certain gardens are described as retreats when they really are attacks' 
Ian Hamilton Finlay
You step off the pavement into The Fleming Collection, an astonishingly gentle and beautiful space. It is currently showing on the ground floor a remarkable collection of Eileen Hogan's paintings of Little Sparta, the garden created by the artist Ian Hamilton Finlay. On the floor above, works from 1770 to the present day are selected from the finest collection of Scottish art in private hands. The room itself, its magnificent windows overlooking the noise and bustle of Mayfair streets, in an oasis of peace,

Three Beehives, to give it an unofficial title, is a large work so powerful I felt I almost needed to step back, with a sense of not wanting to trespass. This is not 'a landscape painting' nor an imaginary garden nor how a garden ought to be. It is a garden which is 'present', in the here and now, and you know that that particular pattern of shade and light  is only there for a few moments. The warmth of the sun and the sounds of the garden are somehow there too.  I was reminded that someone said of John Constable's The Chain Pier 1872  'it almost imparts the wish for an umbrella'. And here is the advice given on going to see one of his more famous paintings, that it is so real you should be minded to wear your galoshes.

FH 172 (c) artist
 The artist explains how she visited the garden for the first time in 1997. Finlay died in 2006 but she kept returning to the garden in all weathers and has been painting it for 15 years. 'The main subjects have been been the trio of white beehives in the section of the garden known as the English Parkland. The structures echo past concerns in my work, when I have repeatedly been drawn to the play of light dappling white surfaces in green surroundings'.

Little Sparta is so called because in antiquity there were two cultures in opposition: Athens and Sparta. Edinburgh is known as the Athens of the North. Hence Little Sparta. It is featured in this magnificent book: A Gardener's Labyrinth: portraits of people, plants and places. by Tessa Traeger and Patrick Kinmonth      Booth Clibborn Editions      has outstanding photographs

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