We are far too quick to believe that we know what we mean by the word book. Even when we allow ourselves the broader scope of the term Artist’s Book we still employ so little imagination.

Alec Finlay allows us to re-read ‘the artist’s book’ in a multitude of new forms - some of them as novel as a crisply ironed hanky.

From the conventional publication of the writer’s writings (as in his earlier sequence of Pocketbooks) to the arboreal root, branch and leaf of the book in itself, this artist makes us eager to discover where his own windblown cloud is leading us.

It is no coincidence that in their Alphabet of the Trees, the Druids gave no letter to the Beech (the root of the word Book) for that is the sacred tree that carries all other letters - either as the Ogham notch or the Roman Capital scored into wax.

Within the architecture and materials of the Renga Platform for The Hidden Gardens (Tramway), Finlay has remembered that without the tree we have no book, no alphabet and no poetry to remind us of such fundamental truths.

In his numerous published collaborations with other artists, he has unbound publishing from its anachronistic and straightlaced medium, democratising authorship beyond the exploitative skills of even the most fervent copyright lawyer.

Whether it be a free haiku, stamped, mailed, or whispered along the breeze during one of his many (and popular) Renga expeditions, or a new choreography for fitba’ - the perfect goal perfected by careful Labanotation, Finlay catches us out, as we settle down to our preconceptions of what constitutes ‘a good read’.

Alec Finlay knows how and when to germinate the seeds of a strong idea and his cranial library is stuffed with fertile projects. This thoughtful installation presents merely one or two fruitful branches of his season at Baltic.

March 2002
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