Ian Hamilton Finlay

Sea Poppy II


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Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925–2006
Object: 346 x 298 x 63 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1979

Not on display

Catalogue entry

T02409 SEA POPPY II 1968

Not inscribed
Etched (sandblasted) plate glass on wooden plinth, 13 5/8 × 11 3/4 × 2 1/2 (34.5 × 29.9 × 6.4)
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1979

In 1966 Tarasque Press published a screenprint ‘Sea Poppy I’ designed by Alistair Cant in collaboration with Ian Hamilton Finlay, in which port letters and fishing numbers of fishing boats were arranged concentrically. In 1968 Wild Hawthorn Press published a screenprint ‘Sea Poppy II’ in which names of fishing boats were arranged likewise. In addition, Wild Hawthorn Press published postcard versions of both ‘Sea Poppy I’ and ‘Sea Poppy II’ in 1968, while a version of ‘Sea Poppy I’ in calligraphic form designed by Ian Hamilton Finlay and George L. Thomson and executed in glass reinforced concrete was installed in Finlay's garden at Stonypath in 1978. The names and port letters and fishing numbers of boats were obtained from issues of Fishing News, a weekly trade newspaper published in London relating to the sea fishing industry.

Finlay commissioned glass versions of ‘Sea Poppy I’ [T02408] and ‘Sea Poppy II’ [T02409] from T. and W. Ide, Glasshouse Fields, London E.1 in 1968. Each was made in an edition of six; some were of plain glass and others were blue or amber. They are glass poems which may be placed on a windowsill, or side-lit, and viewed from either side.

Finlay told the compiler (December 1979): ‘The works have to be seen in the context of concrete poetry of the time. Just as pure cubism lasted only a short time, so pure concrete poetry lasted only a short time.’ ‘Sea Poppy I’ and ‘Sea Poppy II’ were amongst his earliest poems made in sandblasted glass form, the first being ‘Wave/Rock’ of 1967. These were the earliest works of Finlay which in his view ‘extended concrete poetry off the page into object form. I had the very deliberate intention of working with the technically-proficient commercial firm so as to produce a work which could not be confused with neo-Dada, and in order to maintain the connection with concrete art.’

Sea Poppy is the name sometimes given to the yellow horned poppy (Glaucium flavum, Fam. Papaveraceae) a bright yellow poppy which grows on the sea shore in Great Britain and on the Continent.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981

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