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Alec Finlay A Variety of Cultures

Alec Finlay: A Variety of Cultures 2016

A Variety of Cultures is an orchard consisting of a set of sixty-six oak ladders, each of which accompanies a native variety of sapling apple or plum tree. The ladders both anticipate and offer a measure for future growth; and ultimately, provide a means by which visitors will be able to access the eventual canopies of the trees and any fruit they may bear.

Finlay conceived A Variety of Cultures during a short residency at Jupiter Artland in 2010. He describes the piece as “an essay in eco-poetics”; a phrase which beautifully draws out the ways in which his work is at once a set of experiments with language, a play between nature and culture, and a poetic deployment of materials (including living things) as well as words.

In After John Butterworth we used to say…, a poem that addresses itself to A Variety of Cultures, Finlay offers these lines in praise of place and of variousness, which seem particularly apt for Jupiter Artland:

‘an orchard is an
archive of locality’

Alongside A Variety of Cultures, Jupiter Artland’s permanent collection includes another artwork by Finlay titled Mesostic Remedy.


Alec Finlay (1966-) is an artist poet and publisher, currently based in the North-East of England. In recent years Finlay’s work has been primarily concerned with contemporary visions of nature and landscape. The range of forms that he has employed is incredibly diverse: neon text; nest-boxes; major interventions working with windmill turbines; multiples, paperworks and all forms of print and web-based media; and such innovative poetic forms as the renga, circle poem and mesostic. His two volume Selected Poems will appear later this year.

Recent major artist projects include: a long terms vision strategy for renewable energy, in collaboration with NaREC (National Centre for Renewable Energy, Blyth); a series of major new projects for the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens; and a permanent artwork for the Bluecoat gallery in Liverpool, as part of the Capital of Culture, titled ‘Specimen Colony’. He has also grown two fields of wheat as a public artwork considering the themes of agriculture and biogenetics, commissioned by Milton Keynes Gallery. Major public artworks in Scotland include a Xylotheque in the hidden gardens (tramway, Glasgow) and Field Guide (Dysart). New projects which will open in Scotland this year include: a series of permanent artworks for Springburn Park (Glasgow); Home to a king (3) in George Square Gardens (Edinburgh); and Interleaved, a text based work in the newly renovated Basil Spence main library at Edinburgh University.

In the past Finlay has worked on long term residencies and exhibitions with BALTIC and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and performances for Tramway and Tate Modern. His most recent publication is One Hundred Year Star-Diary, an artist project for the new star observatory at Kielder. His publications have won numerous Scottish Design Awards.