I conceived A Variety of Cultures in May 2010, during a week-long residency in the stable cottage at Jupiter Artland, just before we set off on the road north. The orchard contains apples and a few plums: an essay in eco-poetics, it will grow season by season, gradually transforming ladders with fruit trees into fruit trees with apples. The ladders, made by Alistair Letch, are oak and, placed alongside the trees, which are still young, their measure anticipates the pruned canopies of ten, fifteen, twenty years hence.
A book, with an essay by Kathleen Jamie, photography by Hannah Devereux and Robin Gillanders, and drawings by Hanna Tuulikki, will follow in August 2016. There is a film documenting the work here.
A Variety of Cultures refers back to ‘rosary’, a garden sculpture and planting that I created in a park in Frodsham, England (since decommissioned), with ladder trellis and rose varieties, drawing upon Nietzsche’s notion that, within each of us, there is a ladder which we climb.
The orchard at Jupiter Artland is a continuation of the place-aware artworks and growing or living sculptures, on the themes of pollination, biodiversity, and the relationship between cultural and biotic forms, which I have installed at Brogdale (National Fruit Collection), University of Warwick and University of Stirling.
After John Butterworth we used to say…
culture is a matter of taste and variety
taste is subjective and varies
according to soil and climate
orchards are a product of classical humanism
and vernacular tradition
the apple is the greatest product
of English culture
fruit offers a rounded history
an orchard is a wood
infused with blossom
an orchard is an archive
the only sure security
lies in diversity
be gentle to the root
for the best fruit
we prune for form :
pruning is training – with a knife
fertility cannot be forced
at the point of a blade
for John Butterworth, author of Apples in Scotland.
from ‘Alec Finlay's Variety Of Cultures’
‘Alec's new work is an orchard of apples and plums. Just outside the ha-ha, fifty-five trees have been planted, each a different UK variety. Rather, it is not yet an orchard, but it will be given time, maybe 15 years. That's part of the point: the work makes a claim on the future. It will require care and attention, and will change over the years, literally growing.
'That's part of it', Alec said, 'the work extends in time. Also, it's about the coming together of all varieties, in these days when we're anxious about such matters. These apples are all cultures, coming together.
- And they have wonderfully evocative names. Surprisingly perhaps, given our climate, Scotland alone boasts 16 apple varieties, among them the Lass O' Gowrie, the White Paradise and the Bloody Ploughman. There is a poetry here, etched on the little metal labels tied to the trees.’
apple growing is a matter of…
the right soil
the right site
the right pruning
the right weeding
the right manuring
the right picking
and the right storing
AF, after Raymond Bush (1943)
photography and illustrations
Book cover and interiors: Robin Gillanders, Autumn 2015
The Orchard: Hannah Devereux, Spring 2016
Apple: Hanna Tuulikki, 2015
the road north - Falkland
the bee bole
Alec Finlay is represented by Ingleby Gallery