Ian Hamilton
Finlay

Born 1926 in Bahamas
Lived and worked in Scotland until 2006

Year created:
1996
Ian Hamilton Finlay

Ian Hamilton Finlay, The Honey, n. The First Sweetness, 1996/2014.
Ian Hamilton Finlay, Honey Was The Best Gasoline of Antiquity, 1996/2014 .
Both wood and aluminum, painted by Les Edge.
By courtesy of the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay and David Nolan Gallery, NY.
Photograph by Clements Photography and Design, Boston.

Click images for larger view
wood and aluminum
By courtesy of the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay and David Nolan Gallery, NY.
Exhibit Date: 
On View May 16, 2014 - Oct 13, 2014

No longer on view.

These objects are part of the current exhibition, Ian Hamilton Finlay: Arcadian Revolutionary and Avant-Gardener.

Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) was an artist, poet, and gardener. Over thirty years Finlay transformed a barren hillside at Stonypath in Scotland into a world-famous garden replete with ponds, pathways, and sublime vistas, a lush oasis for the contemplation of nature and culture.  Rather than construct a pastoral garden or sanctuary, Finlay treated Stonypath, later renamed Little Sparta, as a site on which he could assert social value and posture cultural inquiry and criticism. The garden and its temple became the ultimate realization of his aesthetic program.  

The two beehives on view are non-active replicas of hives at Little Sparta/Stonypath. While used to pollinate the garden, bees were a potent symbol for Finlay. Bees operate within strict social organizations, analogous to military hierarchies, yet produce something as sweet and nourishing as honey. The phrases “The Honey, n. the first sweetness” and “Honey was the best gasoline of antiquity” inscribed on the hives, conflate ancient and modern-day allusions to fuel. In classical antiquity, which Finlay referenced throughout his work, honey was considered the food of gods. The hives articulate Finlay’s interest in overlaying natural and man-made systems and provide a poetic framework for us to consider nature as a driving force for culture.