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Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Agoraphobia, New Exhibition in Glasgow

By Harriet Staff


Martine F. Pugh writes for Art in Healthcare about Ian Hamilton Finlay, the “avant-gardener,” and the agoraphobia that affected him throughout his adult life:

His movements may have been restricted but Finlay was nonetheless well informed as he corresponded with writers and poets in Britain and around the world. He also surrounded himself with friends and collaborators who were curators, publishers, printmakers, poets, sculptors and stone carvers. With his garden, they provided him with the supportive environment his creativity needed. His genius was to know how to use their particular vision to fulfill and expand his own.

Finlay’s pioneering written work took many forms that defied syntax and convention: concrete poetry or poem objects that you can touch, one line poems, poem drawings, sound poems, embroidered texts, texts shaped in neon, small press publications such as POTH (Poor . Old . Tired . Horse) to name a few.

Art in Healthcare is fortunate to have six prints that span four decades. Together they showcase his characteristic wit and visual power and speak for themselves. Two of them may need further explaining. With ‘Citron Blue’ Finlay alluded to the shape of Orkney boats which reminded him of lemons with their protrusions fore and aft and to a poem by Goethe whom Finlay greatly admired. As for ‘Column Drum to Drum’ it refers to the building process of classical columns that involved stacking up drum-shaped sections.

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s lifelong struggle against agoraphobia had an extraordinary conclusion. He suffered a stroke near the end of his life which reversed his phobia and allowed him to do some travelling once more.

Since Finlay’s death in 2006, Little Sparta has been looked after by his trust. The future seemed uncertain because of the high maintenance costs but it was announced in June this year that a deal has been signed with Edinburgh University (which now includes Edinburgh College of Art) that will allow scholars to use the house as a study centre. A new beginning unfolds.

The exhibition Ian Hamilton Finlay. Poet. Artist. Revolutionary is currently running at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow until March 1, 2014.

Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.