Ian Hamilton Finlay

Pastoral (from the portfolio Travaux Publics, Public Works) (1996)

About this artwork

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s work on paper typically combines poetry and design, and often features phrases with historical or political undertones. This image is from the ‘Travaux Publics’ (Public Works) portfolio, which explores different ways of using text and language in art. Each artist made a proposal for a work which was shown in a public space as well as being reproduced in the portfolio. When this work was displayed at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, the words were written on the gallery wall with neon light-tubes.

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.