The art of Ian Hamilton Finlay emcompasses a variety of media such as poetry, philosophy, history and landscape design. Common to all these themes and media includes the production and inclusion of language.
“On the one hand, Finlay, beginning with with his early experiments with concrete poetry, has always been acutely sensitive to the formalist concerns (colour, shape, scale, texture, composition) of literary and artistic modernism. On the other hand, Finlay, a committed poet and student of classical philosophy, has also always recognised the power of language and art to shape our perceptions of the world and even to incite us to action.”
The inclusion of words and language into the world is most fully realised by Finlay in his garden ‘Little Sparta’ set in the Pentland Hills of southern Scotland. This garden serves as the visitation of Neoclassical tradition of the garden space as a provocation of poetic, political and philosophical thought.
Benches, headstones, plaques, obelisks, planters, bridges and tree-column bases all carry language in relation to the objects present and the landscape within which it is situated. This functions metaphorically to conjure up an ideal and radical space, a space of the mind beyond sight or touch.
Finlay’s work re-enacts the complex and contradictory relationship between culture and nature: the power and wildness of nature and the need to remember art and poetry’s relevance in the world.