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This report is taken from PN Review 49, Volume 12 Number 5, May - June 1986.

Little Sparta Abroad Yves Abrioux

Irony would have it that at the very moment when the Establishment forces - Strathclyde Region, Scottish Arts Council, Arts Minister - were getting more entangled than ever in a web of self-contradiction and confusion over the status of Ian Hamilton Finlay's Garden Temple at Little Sparta, the artist himself was involved in an exhibition of considerable clarity and rigour . . . but on foreign soil. The Chapelle Sainte Marie at Nevers was admirably suited to Little Sparta & Kriegsschatz, mounted by Finlay in conjunction with Sarkis. Not only did the setting vindicate Finlay's claim to a religious building as the environment most suited for his work: as it is located near the spot where the guillotine stood in the Year of the Terror, and surrounded by streets bearing the names of major figures from the French Revolution, the chapel was a fit stage for the latest manifestation of Finlay's 'neoclassical re-armament' in the spirit of the Revolution.

Finlay's contribution to the exhibition underlined the twin aspects of the French Revolution on which he has increasingly come to insist: the epic and the domestic. At the same time, the works exhibited kept up Finlay's perennial concern with the revivification of traditional motifs and devices, and illustrated his polemological stance towards contemporary anti-art. For example, two works (shown only in Paris) playing on the idea of a drum evoke Revolutionary militancy and the painting of Louis David. One is a classical column-section, the other a Jacobin 'improving' ...


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