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This article is taken from PN Review 189, Volume 36 Number 1, September - October 2009.

A Shoal of Names in Nets of Rain John Muckle
Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. An exhibition curated by Mark Sladen. ICA 17 June - 23 August 2009
Roland: The Magazine of the ICA’s Visual Art Programme. Issue 2 / June - August 2009

One of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s postcards uses a photograph of a fishing boat by Vic Smeed, former editor of The Aeromodeller. Another kind of designer of concrete spatial utopias in three-dimensional form, Vic Smeed’s 1930s designs for model aircraft were by far the most elegant of their kind. They are also homely and cute (‘Popsy’, an aptly-named classic, is still built by enthusiasts), and what may seem a tangential connection could identify Vic Smeed as an unsung hero of conceptual art, both plan maker and articulator of childhood longings for flight - maybe an influence equal to Rimbaud’s on this style and sensibility. Ian Hamilton Finlay is a domestic and homespun classicist whose postcards included one of a row of seaplanes, their wings folded up like butterflies. His collaboration with John Furnival in this intriguing exhibition is a plan view of a small deep sea fishing boat. Boats win out over planes - they are a constant theme: a circular red wall painting (Sea-Poppy, 1968) is composed of fishing boat registration numbers, while the plan of the ‘Xmas-Rose’ alludes perhaps to Rimbaud’s ‘Noël sur la terre’, just the sort of thing to put the ‘blanches nations en joie’. Rimbaud’s - and Smeed’s - dreaming spirits provided him with ‘a star to steer by’.


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