Not on display

Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925–2006
Wood and nylon string
Confirmed: 340 × 495 × 202 mm
Bequeathed by David Brown in memory of Mrs Liza Brown 2003

Technique and condition

A polychrome sculpture of a wooden fish suspended on a string between two upright poles.

A blue painted pine wood oval base has two tapering posts countersunk into the base. Each post leans inwards slightly. A drilled hole in the top of both posts holds a double length of partially unravelling orange twisted nylon string. This string is threaded through eye holes in five flat, red painted, wooden fish shapes. The string is knotted on the outside of the upright. One knot has ragged untidy ends. The middle fish hangs a little lower than the others because the eye hole is positioned slightly differently. On the underside of the sculpture, the artist’s full name inscription is protected by a clear varnish coating.
Photographs taken prior to acquisition, pre-1988 (conservation photograph archive) indicate that the poles were originally perpendicular and the knots were neat and had heat sealed ends. One of the upright posts had been re-bonded, at a slight inward leaning angle, indicated by old yellowing adhesive and old cracks and losses in the wood. The opposite post is held in place with an internal nail which had become distorted this is now loose and leaning inwards. The string would appear to have been re-knotted after it unravelled at one side. This would have been done to raise the fish and prevent them from touching the base board. Movement in the wood substrate has meant that the wood to crack and split which has caused the gloss paint surface to fracture.
A conservation treatment was undertaken to secure the loose upright pole. Any attempt to remove the hidden nail would have structurally damaged the sculpture. The pole was positioned to a more upright alignment, which corresponded with the catalogue image taken for Tate St Ives 2002. The fish are now suspended on the line well above the base board. Small chips and losses were consolidated and toned in with artists paints.

Sandra Deighton
February 2005

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