The first time I properly met Cerith Wyn Evans we had a drink in the bar of the ICA and he told me of his affection for Ian Hamilton Finlay (whose work ended last week’s sequence of ‘the Unseen Masterpiece’). Growing up in Wales, a long way from the world of contemporary art, Cerith discovered that the Llanelli library was duty bound to order publications on request, and so came the copies of Flash Art and Studio International that became, as he put it, his ‘lifeline’. In their pages he read about Ian - a man on a hill in Scotland whose intense agoraphobia meant that he never left his isolated garden kingdom – and yet whose work went out into the world to take its place in the European avant garde.
Some years later Cerith made a pilgrimage to Little Sparta to see the garden and meet its creator. Ian invited him into the conservatory by the front door, turned on the radio, and began an incomprehensible conversation in which his soft voice was drowned out by the football scores. In 2007 when we made a pairing of their work in our ‘8 days’ series in the gallery (subsequently re-staged at Art Basel) Cerith insisted that we put a radio in the space, a third element alongside each of their work.
In a work for the 2006 Tate Triennale, Cerith made explicit use of one of Ian’s early poems, setting his words as lines of gunpowder parcels in an outdoor performance of a firework text to mark the opening. The ‘Column’ shown here has no specific reference to Ian’s work, and yet I can’t help but see a connection in spirit to a Little Spartan world “that has been empty since the Romans”.
When I suggested that we might include this work in the present sequence Cerith asked the include a quote from Samuel Beckett’s 'Lessness' as “a form of epigram”
“…I feel it goes some way to elucidate my thoughts and feelings regarding this work. It's not 'officially' attached to the work, perhaps more a Common Law acquaintance”
"Ruins true refuge long last towards which so many false time out of mind.
All sides endlessness earth sky as one no sound no stir (…) Blacked-out fallen open four walls over backwards true refuge issueless.”