This print piece contains many of Ian Hamilton Finlay's hallmarks, including simplicity, the use of concrete poetry and a fondness for thoughtful witticism. It features a perfect rectangle composed of a single shade of blue with letters stencilled in white to provide contrast. A soft sans-serif typeface is used to reflect the overall playful quality of the image.
The piece is an example of Finlay's visual poetry - illustrating the artist's propensity for "concrete" poems - which utilise puns; arrangements of words and visual effects to create witty, thoughtful pieces combining philosophical ponderings with a lightness of touch. The image presents four letters and a word in sequence separated by commas, effectively forming five words phonetically in the viewer's mind. The initial letters are the first four vowels of the English alphabet (A, E, I and O), and the sequence is completed by the word "blue", which creates a rhyme on the phonetic pronunciation of the fifth and final vowel, "U", to complete the set. The audio pun is complemented by a visual pun, since the word "blue" contains the letter "U" and is connected to the background colour that predominates in this image.
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