Artist biography

Scottish sculptor, graphic artist and poet. He briefly attended Glasgow School of Art and first made his reputation as a writer, publishing short stories and plays in the 1950s. In 1961 he founded the Wild Hawthorn Press with Jessie McGuffie and within a few years had established himself internationally as Britain's foremost concrete poet. His publications also played an important role in the initial dissemination of his work as a visual artist. As a sculptor, he has worked collaboratively in a wide range of materials, having his designs executed as stone-carvings, as constructed objects and even in the form of neon lighting.

In 1966 Finlay and his wife, Sue, moved to the hillside farm of Stonypath, south-west of Edinburgh, and began to transform the surrounding acres into a unique garden, which he named Little Sparta. He revived the traditional notion of the poet's garden, arranging ponds, trees and vegetation to provide a responsive environment for sundials, inscriptions, columns and garden temples. As the proponent of a rigorous classicism and as the defender of Little Sparta against the intrusions of local bureaucracy, he insisted on the role of the artist as a moralist who comments sharply on cultural affairs. The esteem won by Finlay's artistic stance and style is attested by many important large-scale projects undertaken throughout the world. The ‘Sacred Grove', created between 1980 and 1982 at the heart of the Kröller-Müller Sculpture Park, Otterlo, is one of the most outstanding examples of Finlay's work outside Little Sparta.

Ian Hamilton Finlay (exh. cat., ACGB, 1977)
S. Bann: ‘A Description of Stonypath', J. Gdn Hist., i/2 (1981), pp. 113–44
Y. Abrioux: Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer (Edinburgh, 1985) [illustrated selection of work]


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