Ian Hamilton Finlay

Wave Rock (1966)

About this artwork

Much of Finlay’s work of the mid to late 1960s was inspired by the sea, as boats and fishing had been an obsession since childhood. Like the prints in which Finlay playfully conjures images using printed words, this sculpture makes his idea three-dimensional. Etched on a sheet of glass, the words mimic the images they represent with their layout being key to the meaning of the piece. Movement is suggested by the placing of the words to represent the progress of the wave as it crashes into a rocky shore. Although Finlay produced work in a variety of media, he considered himself to be essentially a poet.

  • title: Wave Rock
  • accession number: GMA 4294
  • artist: Ian Hamilton FinlayScottish (1925 - 2006)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Sculpture
  • subject: The sea
  • date created: 1966
  • measurements: Wood: 4.00 x 47.80 x 5.10 cm; Glass: 22.80 x 47.50 x 0.50 cm
  • credit line: Scottish Arts Council collection, presented 1999
  • 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.