Ian Hamilton Finlay is well known for his penchant for controversy— he was constantly in legal battles with the tax authorities over his famous sculpture garden “Little Sparta”, and became involved in demonstrations and petitions against the destruction of the fishing industry in Scotland during the 1970s. Finlay’s work, which is all made with the help of industrial collaborators, makes strong references to fishing, and The Tate’s coastal location provides a perfect backdrop this themed show. Included are include landmark works such as his “concrete poems”—tablets of stone engraved with the names of fishing boats and their coded references such as “P2492” and “U52” or cut-outs (right) which refer to Scottish fishing boats. The poems’ mixture of different media illustrates the artist’s eclectic taste which may be influenced by his previous jobs as a shepherd, poet, author and landscape designer. Some works have been designed especially for the exhibition. A series of rosewood benches inscribed with the names of roses and maritime references are on display for the first time, as are the 12 ships’ bells. The exhibition is part of a series which aim to link artists with the artistic heritage of the area, according to curator Andrew Dalton. Exhibitions of the work of Alfred Wallis and John Wells will be on show later in the year.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Maritime: Ian Hamilton Finlay'