Le Roi Fou, Edinburgh, is gearing up to open an exhibition of work by new generation Birmingham artist Dion Kitson, in response to the body of work of Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Le Roi Fou (the mad king), was opened in 2017 by chef proprietor, Jérôme Henry, and creative director, Isolde Nash, bringing together a love of food, the visual arts and the printed word with all the character of a neighbourhood restaurant in the heart of Edinburgh’s vibrant New Town.
Kitson drew inspiration from the work and ideas of Hamilton Finlay at Jupiter Artland and Stonypath, Little Sparta – as well as Edinburgh’s Neoclassical urban landscape and relevant cultural institutions including Edinburgh Printmakers and the Scottish Poetry Library.
I Too Was In Arcadia, an exhibition of print and collaged works on paper, is the result, referencing a rich contrasting language of bucolic idylls, military technology, dilapidated follies and pastoral windmills. With an underlying Finlayesque theme of the industrial Workshop of the World set against the elegiac City of Enlightenment, Kitson wants to know, what are the mythologies of his own life and what are his own leitmotifs?
The work builds on a project initiated by Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery, revolving around Kitson’s location of a neglected work by Hamilton Finlay at The Leasowes, an 18th century rural garden created by poet William Shenstone, located in Kitson’s home borough of Dudley.
Kitson, who is from Dudley in the West Midlands, creates work exploring working class identity, global politics and humorous nostalgia, using wordplay, print, performance and film as well as traditional mixed media and photography methods. He is also the founder of Forward Magazine, Birmingham’s only contemporary art magazine, and was recently included in Ikon Gallery’s Forward: New Art from Birmingham.
Commenting on his upcoming exhibition, Dion Kitson said:
“I was met with open arms by Edinburghers – it’s a such brilliant place for supporting the arts, and that’s very much what Le Roi Fou is about. For me it’s really been a conversation through time, from William Shenstone to Ian Hamilton Finlay, spanning 300 years, that has led me on a wild goose chase to understanding a new perspective on the subject matter in my practice. It was incredibly moving to visit the Stonypath, Little Sparta, the garden of Sue and Ian Hamilton Finlay, having spent a year working with Ikon and researching him. To exhibit with Ikon was a boyhood dream, but then to develop this work and be representing Dudley on a national scale is a real honour. Who would have thought that there would have been a show about Dudley in a pataphysical restaurant in Edinburgh? Oh, and I recommend the scallops.”
Creative Director of Le Roi Fou, Isolde Nash said:
“The name ‘Le Roi Fou’ was born when I was messing around with the letterpress one summer’s day in 2016 at Edinburgh Printmakers, so this is the first show to explore aspects of the restaurant’s identity. Concrete poetry, along with Dadaism and a lesser known movement called Pataphysics from which the name ‘Le Roi Fou’ derives, is at the heart of the Le Roi Fou concept.Although this was a starting point, it’s been fascinating to watch Dion uncover so many other narratives, experiences and questions in relation to the work of Hamilton Finlay, such an influential figure in Scotland’s literary and artistic landscape”.
Le Roi Fou is located at 1 Forth Street in Edinburgh, EH1 3JX. For more information, visit, www.leroifou.com.