The show is organized in collaboration with the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay and is curated by his long time associate Pia Simig.
In his first exhibition in the Middle East, the show includes tapestries, neon installations, engraved poems on glass, sculptures and printed works from the 1960s to 2006, as well as wall paintings installed by his long time collaborator, Les Edge. Finlay’s poetic work with its focus on the language and beauty of the letter is particularly relevant to our region, where the tradition of calligraphy and the rich history of the written word are integral to Middle Eastern artistic canons. The work highlights the letter, making it the subject, just as the Arabic calligraphers have done for centuries.
The show also embraces all the aforementioned themes of Finlay’s work. Yet it focuses on the delicate balance between nature and culture, and terror and virtue. This constant struggle for a balance of two opposites sheds light on the current political, social, and environmental turmoil, thus showing the universality of Finlay’s poetry and work.
A prominent work illustrating these dualities is the wall painting ‘Apollo and Daphne’, a wall painting based on the works of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, an Italian baroque sculptor and architect. It tells the story of Apollo who chases Daphne. The beautiful nymph begs her father, the river god Peneus, to help her escape and is transformed into a bay laurel tree, a disguise that eluded her from her captor. The work is a commentary on the French Revolution. Finlay often linked Apollo to the French revolutionary, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just. However the work not only refers to these mythical and historical figures, but also any individual who chases the ideal of a virtuous republic with excessive desire and rigor. The aggression of the pursuit loses the ideal, only for it to return to nature.