Ian Hamilton Finlay | Definitions

5 May - 1 June 2011
Victoria Miro Gallery I
16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW

Victoria Miro Gallery is delighted to present a unique juxtaposition of Ian Hamilton Finlay's sculpture and a series of text works, termed Definitions. These Definitions present Finlay's own interpretations of the meanings of words, and in conjunction with related sculptural works, display Finlay's adroitness in exploring the written word's materiality. 

Ian Hamilton Finlay was at heart a poet, whose prose, rooted in the concrete poetry movement, finds its sublime presentation within the visual field. Informed by numerous sources, his work operates within a context of literature, mythology and classicism. Finlay's ongoing endeavour throughout his lifetime of practice was to expand, liberate and challenge our understanding and perception of the written word, its limitations and its role in unspoken, communicative and aesthetic exchange. He achieved this through poetry rendered in many materials and forms.

Finlay's adept use of syntax and narrative configuration weaved refined distinctions with a lyrical philosophy. His skill lay in his unique ability to break down complex ideas into coherent single words and short phrases, infused with Finlay's characteristic wit and, often, wry humour.

This exhibition reveals how Finlay plays with our presuppositions and undermines our very understanding of language. His Definitions are interspersed at considered at precisely choreographed points through the exhibition, initiating a narrative journey for the visitor through the consideration of text and object. No visitor's reading shall be the same, as these open-ended propositions allow for endless interpretations of work and meaning.  The intricate and multi-layered relationships established between language, text, object and visitor are integral to an enduring search for the pure, which prevailed within Finlay's practice.
Born in 1925 in Nassau, Bahamas, Ian Hamilton Finlay was a philosopher, sculptor and poet who reinvigorated the classical tradition in his art. Finlay's diverse production encompassed a variety of creative forms including prints, poems, books, inscriptions, neons, sculptures, permanent installations and landscape design, all celebrating the sustaining power of words. The purest kind of conceptual artist, Finlay was sensitive to the formalist concerns (colour, shape, scale, texture, composition) of literary and artistic modernism. In 1961 he founded Wild Hawthorn Press with Jessie McGuffie, mainly to introduce contemporary artists to Scotland, and which over the years came to concentrate exclusively on Finlay's printed works. His lifetime's work, the garden at Little Sparta, Stonypath, Scotland, begun in 1966, most fully realises the movement of words and language into the world. Ian Hamilton Finlay died 27 March 2006, aged 80.

Four Muses, 2006
Bronze heads on green oak plinths, head 36 x 24 x 24 cm, plinths 20 x 20 x 140 cm