Ian Hamilton Finlay

June 19 - July 25, 2009

A major exhibition of sculpture and wall paintings from the estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay, one of the leading conceptual artists of the twentieth century and one of Scotland’s most original artists of all time.

 

The exhibition coincides with the opening of Hortus Conclusus, Finlay’s last major work for Little Sparta, the garden at Stonypath in the Pentland Hills where he lived and worked for 40 years. Little Sparta is widely, and rightly, understood to be one of the key gardens to have been made in this country in the last 100 years and one of the greatest ever of all Scottish artworks.

 

The exhibition also coincides with a celebration of concrete poetry at the ICA in London entitled: Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. (17 June – 23 August). This show has Finlay’s early work at its core, and takes its title from the poetry periodical he published between 1962 and 1968.

 

This show looks at several of the key themes that occupied Finlay’s thinking over 50 years. On the ground floor there is a group of works exploring boats and the sea (a subject to which Finlay often returned as an expression of man’s inability to impose order on natural chaos).

 

In the “editions” area on the ground floor of the gallery, the vitrines have been dedicated to a display of archive works from the early days of the Wild Hawthorn Press, and Finlay’s endeavours as a publisher and poet.

 

Upstairs, in the main gallery, the theme is Revolution. The main gallery is dominated by a wall painting of Apollo and Daphne (recalling Ovid’s descripton of the mythical chase driven equally by love and fear, a metaphor in Finlay’s hand for Saint-Just’s pursuit of the republic) and three glass towering guillotines, each emblazoned with a single word, which together form a poetic and wistful twist on the revolutionary cry: LIBERTY EQUALITY ETERNITY.