Ian Hamilton Finlay

Sea / Land Sundial


Not on display

Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925–2006
Glass on wooden base
Object: 335 × 307 × 75 mm, 1.2 kg
Bequeathed by David Brown in memory of Mrs Liza Brown 2003

Display caption

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s poetry moved in the early 1960s from a solely literary form to a kinetic or concrete one expressed in stone, wood, neon and other materials. This glass poem sundial suggests the shape of a sail, moving through the sea yet in sight of the land. The sun is a way of measuring time as well as fixing a position in space.

A steel rod projects from the glass to act as the sundial’s pointer, casting a shadow to the number twelve, which is 10˚ East of South, as etched in the glass.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Technique and condition

A one piece sculpture comprising an etched glass panel mounted on a wood block with a metal gnomen.

The rectangular, greenish glass panel, with polished edges, has an acid etched design applied on the reverse. This etching leaves a clear pattern of curved grid lines, words, inscriptions and numbers visible through the glass. The glass panel has a rectangular projection to the lower edge which fits tightly into a slot in the centre of a rectangular shaped, pale coloured wood base; this block holds the panel perpendicular.

Through a milled hole in the centre of the glass, a slot headed steel engineering screw with protective washers has been tapped into a steel rod. This rod projects to the rear of the sculpture making a gnomen. When lit correctly, the gnomen casts a shadow across the glass to the number twelve, which is 10˚ East of South, as indicated by the words etched in the glass.

On acquisition there was a small sliver of wood missing on the proper left lower edge of the integral wood base. As the rounded edges to the break would indicate, the damage occurred at some considerable time in the past. The structure of the sculpture is not compromised in any way by this loss. No conservation treatment was deemed necessary.

There is no artist’s inscription.

Sandra Deighton
November 2004 / October 2005

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