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Alec Finlay // Questions & Answers (after Paul Celan)

Opening: 18 Mar 2018, 14:00 - 18:00

18 Mar 2018 – 30 Jun 2020

Event times

Launch event: 2-6pm with Readings by Alec Finlay at 3pm.
The permanent installation of nest boxes are installed throughout Southwark Park

Cost of entry


London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • 1, 47, 188, 199, 225, 381, C10, P12
  • Canada Water (Jubilee Line)
  • Surrey Quays (London Overground)

Save Event: Alec Finlay // Questions & Answers (after Paul Celan)

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CGP London is delighted to announce the launch of a new permanent public art installation across the gallery’s home, Southwark Park, by the Scottish artist and poet Alec Finlay, this spring.

The project is a portrait of Southwark Park and our diverse local communities, which celebrates the rich biodiversity and stunning surroundings of our park and indeed the city’s parks as a whole in enriching our daily lives through colour, play and wellbeing.

Finlay was commissioned to write a new text piece responding to the gallery, our beautiful park and the rich social history of the local area and our neighbours.

Twenty-nine texts have been composed to date, referencing a question-and-answer form associated with Romanian-born German poet Paul Celan (1920-1970)*. Twenty of these playful texts have been selected to be emblazoned on a series of colourful nest boxes, to be permanently displayed across Southwark Park and CGP London’s gallery garden. Some of the poems relate to specific features within the park, such as the memorial tree, Ada Salter’s Rose Garden, the ice cream van and the dolphin sculptures. Others look out from their post beyond the park across to Rotherhithe, providing an imagined birds-eye view.

where’s heaven? through the rose garden

what’s the moon? coin - slots in flats at night

Each nest box and accompanying poem has been thoughtfully created in response to its given placement by Finlay, describing what the mind’s-eye can see when near to the individual box. As with previous nest-box projects by Finlay**, colours have also 

been cleverly chosen to visually link to the specific surroundings of each box, such as the muted bricks of China Hall Gate, the burning copper of the Tree of Heaven in Ada Salter’s Rose Garden or the primary blue of the lake’s pedaloes.

These aesthetic nods to our immediate surroundings - often ignored as we are too busy to look up - also encourages us to imagine the bird’s-eye view of each box’s inhabitants.

what’s a tweet? less than a call or song

The texts have been developed by the artist to respond to Southwark, including some slang and colonial dialect, drawing on urban dictionaries and suggesting the sharpness of urban wit, combined with a contemporary pastoral mood suited to the park.

what’s spring? chirpsing-time!

Finlay has designed an accompanying trail map to provide clues to the location of each unique nest box, which will also be available online for our visitors to reference as they walk through the park. Postcards relating to the work will be available in our Gallery Shop.

what’s winter? gate’s closed early

During the life of the project, CGP London will develop seasonal activities including nature walks, drawing from nature sessions and team up with Southwark Council Ecology’s ongoing series of educational events to provide our audiences with a richer understanding and appreciation of the beautifully diverse environment and inhabitants of our much loved park.

Activities will also encompass our forthcoming Bermondsey Bothy, launching in July 2018 with The Bothy Project’s Bobby Niven. This outdoor art residency studio, situated in the gallery garden, will provide a bridge space between gallery and the nature that surrounds us.

Launch Event // 18 March 2018 // CGP London // The Gallery
To mark the launch of this project there will be a reading by Alec Finlay and poet Daisy Lafarge. The readings shall commence at 3pm, gallery staff will direct visitors to the park location(s) chosen for the readings on the day.

Alec Finlay was born in Scotland in 1966. He is an internationally-recognised artist and poet whose work crosses over a range of media and forms, encompasses permanent and temporary interventions and work embedded in the landscape or found online.

He has held many residencies, from 2002 when he was the first BALTIC artist in residence, through to the John Muir Trust Residency in Dunbar in 2017. He has exhibited at the Sydney Biennale, and in 2016 had an artwork permanently installed at Jupiter Artland. He has produced many public artworks, including in 2014 a Memorial for Organ and Tissue Donors at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Also in 2014 he worked with The National Trust and other artists to carry out a project commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War.

In the 1990s he set up the Morning Star small press, which published the Folios and the pocketbooks series.

Questions & Answers (after Paul Celan) has been made possible by the generous support of Southwark Council, Co-op Local Community Fund (thanks to our kind neighbours who shop at The Blue branch, Bermondsey) and Arts Council England.

Special thanks go to Alec Finlay; Jon Best, Ecology Officer, Southwark Council; Rachael Roe & Coraal Flood, Arts Officers, GLA; Alan Scott, Complete Ecology; Matthew Couper & Paul Cowell, Culture Team, Southwark Council; Daisy Lafarge; Jenna Corcoran, Studio Alec Finlay; Hannah Devereux; Pat Kingwell, Gary Glover and The Friends of Southwark Park.

CGP London is a founding member of PVA (Parks Visual Arts), a national visual arts in parks collective established with friends Pumphouse Gallery (Battersea Park), LUX (Waterlow Park) and Furtherfield (Finsbury Park) in 2017. PVA will be launched in summer 2018. For more information please contact Judith Carlton, Director, CGP London via admin@cgplondon.org.

* Such as ‘What is forgetting? An unripe apple stabbed by a spear’. Paul Celan, tr. Julian Semilian & Sanda Agalidi (in: Romanian Poems, Green Integer, 2003) ** Now Then, the Bluecoat, Liverpool (2008); Home to a king (3), StAnza in partnership with Fife Contemporary Art & Craft (2008-2009) and YSP (2008-2010).

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Alec Finlay


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