ARTYFACTS: Little Sparta

Friday, August 09, 2013

Little Sparta

Set in a small wooded crack in the hills near Biggar, Ian Hamilton Findlay's temple precinct is built, as many in Greece were, around a natural spring, which cascades clear water down through a series of lakes and rivulets, around which art objects are carefully placed. They make you walk the half mile to the site as it prepares you for the sanctity of the site. There’s no denying the beauty of the place, especially the top-end lake but it troubled me a little. Then again, most things trouble me - a little.

Some of the works surprise, such as the golden head of Apollo. It springs into view, cleverly set into the ground in a little grove.

The cluster of gold roof slates was my favourite 'spot' - a deft,  relevant touch that works brilliantly in the grey Scottish light.
Then there's the grenades on the gate-posts and little bridges.

But the Latin inscriptions that litter the site become predictable. Setting words and phrases into stone and into the landscape is fine but if it’s Little Sparta, why Latin and not Greek? I like the Hyperborean Apollo feel to the place but the neo-classical words on stone are too easy and often banal.

Popped into Biggar’s only open Cafe for something to eat at around 4pm, “sorry, Kitchen’s closed – coffee and drinks only”. Some things never change.


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