For Edinburgh Art Festival 2012 Ingleby Gallery present a major exhibition by Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925 – 2006). Drawing on the artist’s work in many mediums and across several decades, the exhibition celebrates on of Scotland’s most important 20th-century artists.
The exhibition begins with a re-discovered moment of genius by the late Ian Hamilton Finlay. Carrier Strike (1977) is a classic Finlayesque clash of the heroic and the domestic: in this case an epic air/sea battle played out on the surface of an ironing board. Photographed by Carl Heideken and set to music by John Purser, the ironing board becomes an aircraft carrier, surrounded by destroyer irons, and small model planes amongst cotton wool clouds. Like all Finlay’s best work, the ideas are layered and delivered with gentle humour.
Three boulders, carved with the names of Japanese war planes become stepping stones from the war- zone of Carrier Strike to the garden works that dominate the rest of the exhibition, recalling the most familiar of Finlay’s ‘detached sentences on gardening’ that Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks.
The garden, gardening, and specifically man’s relationship with and against nature, provided the backdrop for Finlay’s life’s work. At the heart of this exhibition are a group of garden works that turn the gallery into a colony of Little Sparta, the classical garden and self-styled ‘Raspberry Republic’ that Finlay built over 40 years and which cradled so many of his artistic and philosophical beliefs. Carved stones, garden stiles, brick paths and bronze spades are marshalled into the service of Finlay’s ideas, interwoven with reference to the classical world, the French revolution, the sea and the world at war.
This summer’s Ingleby Gallery exhibition will be the first of several Finlay celebrations for 2012; followed most notably by a major presentation of Finlay’s work in Brazil, at the São Paulo Biennale in September, and in London at Tate Britain in November.