IAN HAMILTON FINLAY: A SELECTION OF PRINTED WORKS
Installed in 2010 at the Marfa Book Company Gallery is an exhibition of printed works by Scottish poet and visual artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay. The process of organizing this show began through collaboration with poet and critic Stephen Scobie, who generously loaned many of the works on view.
THE PRESENT ORDER: WRITINGS ON THE WORK OF IAN HAMILTON FINLAY
In conjunction with the physical exhibition of Finlay’s works, we published a small book of selected writings on Finlay’s printed works. These writings come from some of the most interesting voices on poetry, visual art, and the avant-garde:
To create this book we collaborated with visual artist and editor of Veneer Magazine, Flint Jamison. In conversation with this collaborative process, Jamison created an exhibition at the Marfa Book Co. Gallery titled tongue/groove technology keeps safe these nodes, here:
From the introduction to The Present Order:
With this book and exhibition, we hope to demonstrate the formal and conceptual diversity of Finlay’s printed works, most of which appeared through Wild Hawthorn Press, which he co-founded in 1961. Although attention to Finlay’s work predominantly concerns his garden, Little Sparta, located in Dunsyre, Scotland, we believe these printed works to be of equal interest. For the exhibition, we selected works that demonstrate a concern for mobility, materiality and forms of contingency. Included are examples of printed cards, booklets, prints, books, folding cards, and the international poetry journal he edited, Poor. Old. Tired. Horse.
Finlay’s work is marked by a consistency of vision. Both Stonypath-Little Sparta and his printed works demonstrate an engagement with political and art historical precedents, as well as his long relationship to collaboration. In considering Finlay’s work, it is additionally necessary to recognize his interest in the nautical, the pastoral, the militaristic, the domestic, the revolutionary, and above all the transformative potential of all of these concepts through metaphor. However, it is Finlay’s relationship to paper and publication that directed our thinking when organizing the exhibition and this book.
Finlay explored paper’s materiality—texture, fragility, frame, economy, ubiquity—acknowledging that paper is an object with six sides. He also specifically addressed the temporal nature of books, which consist of multiple pages turned in time. Finlay worked with the printed page as a material object in three key ways. First, through his engagement with concrete poetry, Finlay was among those working to reveal the entirety of the page as an active and decidedly visible space. Second, a number of Finlay’s printed works invite physical manipulation, often through folding, so that the paper object takes sculptural form to occupy actual space. Third, Finlay combined the elements of concrete poetry, with the insistence of the materiality of the page and book to create artists’ books that uniquely embodied his relationship to the world. Also, and importantly, many of these works address mobility, a fact that resonates when we consider how thoroughly the garden work concerns monumentality and place. It is additionally resonant in relation to a man who suffered agoraphobia and who left the grounds of his house a mere handful of times during the last thirty years of his life.