For Finlay, the garden was not simply a place of beauty, but rather a liminal space bordered by nature and culture, where visitors are invited to meditate on the different ways time passes.
Ian Hamilton Finlay, Marcel Broodthaers and Cy Twombly: I see them sitting in a neoclassical gazebo overlooking a shimmering lake, talking passionately about poetry, different kinds of script (from handwriting to calligraphic lettering to typefaces), gardens, and the distinction between cultivated flowers and wildflowers. Their literal writing — from Finlay’s concrete poems to the pairing of words and images in Broodthaers’s graphic works to Twombly’s transcriptions of poems by various poets — is what initially enthralled me, but this early enchantment has blossomed into much more. Like many poets of my generation, I first learned about Finlay when I came across his concrete poems in the indispensable gathering, An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, edited by Emmet Williams, and published by the legendary Something Else Press, under the guidance of Dick Higgins, in 1967. Recalling that early encounter — I was in my first year of college — I wonder if it was Finlay’s playful variations on the same letters and words that interested me in the possibility of language being something to both to read and look at? Or did the roots of my fascination start much earlier, when I was a child happily watching my mother using a brush and ink to practice her calligraphy on Sunday afternoons?
The Sea, the Sea: Ian Hamilton Finlay - Ring of Waves
By Lucy Li
There is something magical about opposing energies ignited by a focused comparison. The simultaneous acknowledgement of two unlike objects, sensations or concepts sets off an endless search for similarities and differences, as well as a burst of curiosity that sustains engagement and triggers vibrant imagination. (The effect is most potent when “but” and “yet” can be appropriately placed; press releases and auction catalogue notes unabashedly embrace this advantage: “[work title]” is at once [version of ‘magisterial and aggressive’] and [synonym for ‘quaint pensiveness’].”)
Ian Hamilton Finlay, 80, Poet and Conceptual Artist
by Ken Johnson
Ian Hamilton Finlay, a Scottish poet and conceptual artist known for his neo-Classical-style sculptures inscribed with poetic texts as well as for his home and garden, an imaginative echo of ancient Rome in the Pentland Hills of Lanarkshire, died on Monday at a hospital in Edinburgh. He was 80.