For her first exhibition at Roche Court, Eileen Hogan has painted a series of beautiful and evocative works in response to the garden created by Ian Hamilton Finlay at Little Sparta.
Set in the Pentland Hills south-west of Edinburgh, Little Sparta is perhaps Ian Hamilton Finlay’s greatest artistic achievement, combining poetic and sculptural elements within a landscaped setting. Eileen Hogan first visited there in 1997 on the day that Finlay was being interviewed for the British Library’s ‘Artists’ Lives’ series – a recording that has only become public this year. Whilst the interview was underway, Hogan explored the garden and began to sketch; walking and stopping to draw. She returned to Little Sparta during Finlay’s lifetime and subsequent to his death in 2006, taking the gardens, the works by Finlay which they contain, and the artist himself as her subjects.
Whilst Hogan was a student at Camberwell, she was particularly interested in the relationship between words, lettering and images as a form of drawing. She published three books with the Lion and Unicorn Press when a student at the Royal College of Art in the 1970s, and went on to establish The Camberwell Press; she continues to make artists’ books. This concern for words, their layout and typography, is something Hogan shared with Finlay, who founded the Wild Hawthorn Press and came to be considered our foremost concrete poet.
Garden squares and parks, albeit those in urban settings, had long held a fascination for Eileen Hogan and she has rendered in paint their unique sense of place and retreat amidst the hubbub of the city. In turn, her Little Sparta paintings convey the respite and escape offered by isolation and remoteness – seen most notably in her paintings of Finlay’s goose hut beside Lochen Eck, Little Sparta’s moorland setting and the hills beyond. A recurrent subject is Finlay’s trio of beehives, which he named after Scottish fishing boats and their ports of registration, which Hogan has painted repeatedly, working from different angles and on differing scales. Physically empty but potent with metaphor, the beehives are like small temples, her paintings of them both homage to Finlay and a form of memorial to him. However the works are also completely expressive of Hogan herself, marked by her handling of intense colour, tone, light and shade, they are simultaneously painterly and poetic, restrained and precise.
Eileen Hogan studied at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, the Royal Academy Schools, the British School of Archaeology at Athens and the Royal College of Art. She has exhibited at The Fine Art Society, the Royal Academy, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Yale Center for British Art. She is currently Research Professor at the University of the Arts London.