Finlay's work in and with the medium of language plays an important part in every aspect of his art, seen particularly here in his print 'Sea ms' (1969). This screenprint can be seen as a fusion of poetry and art and must be considered in the light of Finlay's interdisciplinary vocations and interests. Finlay's works are often concerned with irony, observation and a British sense of humour which is reflected here through the notion of a pun and the breakdown of language, executed in a simple, straightforward manner without a hint of indulgence.
Born in the Bahamas to Scottish parents, sea and seafaring were close to his heart since childhood and continued to inspire his work throughout his career. Finlay joined the British Army in 1942 and became a shepherd when the war was over before he started writing. Finlay gained wide recognition as a concrete poet and published 'Rapel', a collection of concrete poetry (poetry where the layout and typography of words contributes to its effect) in 1963. He eventually composed poems to be inscribed into stone as sculptures in a natural environment which features in 'Little Sparta' in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh which was voted to be the most important work of Scottish art in 2004.
Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) was a writer, poet, gardener and self-taught artist. He left school aged thirteen and only studied at the Glasgow School of Art for a year before the outbreak of World War II, in which he served in the Royal Army Service Corps. His work covered a range of genres, including poetry, philosophy and history, and he is best known for his "visual poetry." One of the pioneers of concrete poetry in English, he often incorporated his poems into his artwork, most famously in the five-acre garden-sculpture piece, 'Little Sparta'. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1985 and was awarded the CBE in 2002.
Art in Healthcare's blog entry about Ian Hamilton Finlay