Ian Hamilton Finlay

Beware of the Lark (1974)

About this artwork

This is one of several inscribed boulders by Finlay (he called them ‘wild stones’), and like much of his work it stands on the borderline between art and nature. Designed to sit on the ground in a garden like any normal stone, it therefore surprises the viewer with its inscribed message. It is one of several ‘notices’ made by the artist which have surreally humorous messages. The stone is dedicated to the French poet René Char (1907-88), whose work Finlay admired for conveying a sense of ‘a kind of frenzy in Nature, and a sense of danger.’ The inscription suggests similar values - Finlay explained: ‘I mean to suggest the way that larks rise from a hillside, with the suddenness of disturbed dogs...and this relates to a sense of joy and danger which recurs in Char’s poetry’.

  • title: Beware of the Lark
  • accession number: GMA 3706
  • artist: Ian Hamilton FinlayScottish (1925 - 2006)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Sculpture
  • subject: Rocks
  • date created: 1974
  • measurements: 22.00 x 43.00 x 42.00 cm
  • credit line: Purchased 1993
  • copyright: © By courtesy of the estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Finlay was born in the Bahamas to Scottish parents, who returned to Scotland when he was a child. He attended Glasgow School of Art for a brief period but began his career as a writer of 'concrete poetry'. Finlay's work investigates the power of images and symbols, particularly those associated with militarism, politics, classicism and nature. Creating an analogy between war and the forces of Nature, he highlighted the thin line that exists between creation and destruction, order and disorder, culture and chaos. His art presents a challenging and often complex fusion of poetry, graphic design and sculpture. In 1966 Finlay moved to a farmhouse in the Pentland Hills, south of Edinburgh, where he created a sculpture garden called Little Sparta to display his artworks in a natural setting.