Basket, Stone, Wood, Honey
We revisited the Early Peoples floor of the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, an inspiring mix of installation and display with sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi and environments by Andy Goldsworthy. Paolozzi’s sentinel figures have built-in boxes which contain pre-historic jewellery whilst Goldsworthy’s mud and slate walls provide a backdrop for cases arranged by material and process – wood, stone, ceramic, textile, metal, building, hunting, fishing, cooking etc.
The arrangements speak of continuity, unchanging human needs over huge periods of time, a concept emphasised by showing recently made and used objects alongside the remains of ancient equivalents. I spent quite a bit of time looking at the basket work, a technology older than the moulding and firing of clay, complex, beautiful and versatile, and was reminded of the work of Chris Drury and Swedish storage baskets recently bought from IKEA!
Just outside of Edinburgh (just past IKEA) are Rosslyn Chapel and a bit further down the road, Little Sparta, Ian Hamilton-Finlay’s house and garden. Rosslyn is famous for it’s 15c. stone carving and its connections with Freemasons, Knights Templar and Holy Grail myths. There were two apiarists on the scaffolding which still surrounds the chapel after years of conservation work, trying to net honey bees which have their hive in the hollow top of a rooftop pinnacle.
They access the hive through a small hole in a carved flower form. It is believed that the Medieval masons deliberately encouraged bees to use the hive, probably for symbolic reasons as there is no access to collect honey. At the time hives were woven baskets of grass or straw called a skep. The Rosslyn stone hive is unique.
Ian Hamilton-Finlay raised his family and refined his art and poetry at Little Sparta, a small holding in the Pentland Hills. Over a period of almost forty years he developed his garden, gradually cultivating the surrounding rough ground and moorland, intelligently inserting sculptures and inscriptions which reference his diverse obsessions.
270 works in all, including a set of three beehives inscribed Bountiful, Sweet Promise and Golden Gain, the names of Cornish and Scottish fishing boats. Wooden hives like these have been in use since the 17th c. and Hamilton-Finlay used them again as working hives in his second and much less well known garden design called Fleur de l’Air in Provence.