Site-specific Contemporary Art in Derbyshire

Alec Finlay - white peak | dark peak

Main Commission

Peak District

Alec's intention was to creatively map ‘white peak’, using a hybrid form that he calls a word-map.

This involved renga poetry that describes specific views. Heard as audio, in situ, these poem-scapes are interfused with field recordings of the rivers and becks that flow through and define the Peak landscape.

Streaming water finds its contemporary counterpart in technology, as the project uses the mobile phone and QR code to create access points throughout the region, allowing people to stream the recordings and experience each view. Finally, the entire text has been collated into a website, with each poem typeset as a skyline or river course, allowing anyone in the world to wander through the word-map.

When awarded the commission, Alec said, "Having outlined the idea of approaching white peak in the form of a proposal, i'm a little daunted now, to have it accepted; and also curious and excited about what I, and also each of the poet's who are working with me, will find as we walk to each viewpoint. Laying out the maps last night I couldn't wait to get started, but for now there is the work of planning our sorties to do, and this gives me a lovely sense of anticipation."

Alec Finlay (b.1966) is an artist poet and publisher, currently based in the Northeast of England. In recent years Finlay's work has been primarily concerned with contemporary visions of nature and landscape. The range of forms that he has employed is myriad, from neon text and nest-boxes, to major interventions working with windmill turbines; as well as multiples, paperworks and all forms of print and web-based media; and such innovative poetic forms as the renga, circle poem and mesostic. His two-volume Selected Poems (1990–2009) will appear later this year.

Recent major artist projects include a long term vision strategy for renewable energy, in collaboration with NaREC (National Centre for Renewable Energy, Blyth); a series of major new projects for the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens; a permanent artwork for the Bluecoat gallery in Liverpool, Specimen Colony, as part of the Capital of Culture; as well as growing two fields of wheat as a public artwork considering the themes of agriculture and biogenetics, commissioned by Milton Keynes Gallery.

Major public artworks include a Xylotheque in the hidden gardens (Tramway, Glasgow) and Field Guide (Dysart). New projects which will open in Scotland this year include a series of permanent artworks for Springburn Park (Glasgow), Home to a king (3) in George Square Gardens (Edinburgh), and interleaved, a text based work in the newly renovated Basil Spence main library at Edinburgh University.

In the past, Finlay has worked on long-term residencies and exhibitions with BALTIC and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and performances for Tramway and Tate Modern. His most recent publication is One Hundred Year Star-Diary, an artist project for the new star observatory at Kielder. His publications have won numerous Scottish Design Awards. 

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Arts Council England Lottery FundedDerbyshire Arts Development GroupDerbyshire County CouncilEsmée Fairbairn Foundation