IAN HAMILTON FINLAY

ARTIST’S POSTCARDS

NETS NIGHT STAR FISH. 1964. WITH HAND WRITTEN XMAS GREETINGS TO VICTOR VASERELY FROM FINLAY..

Edinburgh: Wild Hawthorn Press, n.d. (1964)
16.3 x 27.9cm, 1pp. Printed blue and orange on off white card. An extremely early Xmas card sent out privately by Finlay to friends and associates. The work is a concrete poem which contains recognisable early themes by the poet - the words all relate to the experience of commercial but small scale night time fishing in Scotland - the nets, the star, the fish all can be found in the shape of a constellation (later similar works build on this idea). This card on the back has a handwritten greeting "Happy Christmas to Victor (Vaserely) from Ian" and the date 1964. The latter is important because else this card is unknown in the literature and the date would be unknown.
Former folded in the middle and some stains but this is a rarity amongst Finlay artist postcards.

THE STAR IN THE STABLE OF LIGHT. 1964. VERY EARLY CHRISTMAS CARD SIGNED.

Edinburgh: Wild Hawthorn Press, 1964
14 x 16cm, 4pp (folded single card). This card is 1965 (as can be attested by the franking on the envelope and not 1964 as Murray's very flawed catalogue raisonne has it). According to Murray this was Finlay's second published card but we have examples of other cards from before this time that Murray did not know about - but this is early nonetheless and part of Finlay's habit of producing bespoke Xmas cards for friends. This card simply has the title words on the front - each centred around the middle line. A religious reference to the crib but also to the way a heavenly star will often be seen to have a shimmer surrounding it - again one might imagine a reference to a crown (from an attending King perhaps?).
An extremely hard card to find - we have seen only 3 examples in 20 years and it took us that same amount of time to find one for this collection. One small tear to the card on the right from being poorly opened in the envelope, internally this is signed "Happy Christmas from Ian" and is with the original postal envelope hand addressed by Finlay to Fred Hunter.

STANDING POEM 2. (APPLE/HEART 1). 1965.

Edinburgh: Wild Hawthorn Press, n.d. (1965)
20.3 x 13cm, printed 1pp. Folded on both sides allowing the card to stand as intended. The inner images are of an apple in red with a black stalk which metamorphoses step by step into a heart. Alongside that graphical change the word LOVE slowly emerges also first with a l then LO then LOV then LOVE. On each step the letter shapes added have some similarities with the red apple shape changing - for example the V in love appears as the top of the round apple indents in a V shape as part of the way to the final image. This is then mirrored by a second exact group of images and text in parallel.
The previous standing card (Standing Card 1) involved a pear appearing and disappearing - here an apple has a similar fate. In a simple card expressing love is a depth of metaphor and physical similarities. Like much of the best of Finlay the work has multiple readings.
This is a scarce card - Murray in his flawed catalogue raisonne claims it as the third ever card published but it is more probably the fifth if one includes the earlier typescript from 1963 in this collection. VG+ condition.

STANDING POEM 2. (APPLE/HEART 2). 1965.

Edinburgh: Wild Hawthorn Press, n.d. (1965)
5.8 x 14.2cm, printed 1pp. Folded on both sides allowing the card to stand as intended. The inner images are of an apple and stalk in black which metamorphoses step by step into a heart. Alongside that graphical change the word LOVE slowly emerges also first with a l then LO then LOV then LOVE. On each step the letter shapes added have some similarities with the red apple shape changing - for example the V in love appears as the top of the round apple indents in a V shape as part of the way to the final image. This is then mirrored by a second exact group of images and text in parallel.
The previous standing card (Standing Card 1) involved a pear appearing and disappearing - here an apple has a similar fate. In a simple card expressing love is a depth of metaphor and physical similarities. Like much of the best of Finlay the work has multiple readings.
This is the second version of this Standing Poem 2 - it is slightly larger than the earlier (?) version, the colours are blue and black and printed on light yellow card. The black colour of the apple/heart image is a single tone in this one (in the other card they are red and black). The text L LO LOV LOVE is in italic on this version. It may be that this card was designed before the red/black version but there is no record of whether that was the case or not so it is moot. The fact it is a slightly more simplistic design perhaps suggests it was first but traditionally this is usually regarded as the second version.
This is a scarce card - Murray in his flawed catalogue raisonne claims it as the third ever card published but it is more probably the fifth if one includes the earlier typescript from 1963 in this collection. VG+ condition.

STANDING POEM 3. (HEARTS). 1965.

Edinburgh: Wild Hawthorn Press, n.d. (1965)
22.8 x 11.3cm, printed 1pp. Folded on both sides allowing the card to stand as intended. Printed olive green and blue on white.
JOINT WITH AS ISSUED:
13 x 11.4cm, 1pp diagrammatic card with a key to the various hearts in the standing card.

This (officially the third Standing Poem) is related to the earlier Standing Poems in various ways - firstly that the sides of the sheet bend in to allow the work to stand up, secondly a repeating pattern of shapes (roughly formed hearts) are printed in a lattice pattern over the sheet.
The Standing Poem 2 versions both have hearts as one of their motifs. It is almost as each card in turn was an evolution from the previous one (which is a reasonable argument and reflects the fact that the earlier cards had images on them that "evolved" within the card).
The colours used here differ though - olive green and blue on white is attractive but doesn't tend to evoke any particular meaning.
The separate key card that Finlay added to the paper sculpture indicates the hearts are all different and have titles - they are Little Heart, Wooden Heart, Pond Heart, Owl Heart, Jersey Heart, Umbrella Heart, Bobbin Heart and End Heart. It is hard to see any reason why these names are chosen. Other than the lazy distribution of the hearts (again somewhat loosely reflecting a constellation) it seems nothing more than a love poem of sorts. But a little thought reminds one that there are physical elements of the prefixed objects that look heart like - an owl's forehead, the point of the unfurled umbrella, a neckline from a Jersey and so on. Finlay loves a visual pun or simile and here it is if obscured.
This is a scarce card - Murray in his flawed catalogue raisonne claims it as the fourth ever card published but it is more accurately the sixth if one includes the earlier typescript from 1963 in this collection. VG+ condition.

FIRST SUPREMATIST STANDING POEM. 1965.

Edinburgh: Wild Hawthorn Press, 1965
22.8 x 11.3cm, 4pp. Inner pages are black, text is only on front and back of card.
The text is printed blue on the front of the card and yellow on the back. The text is as follows:

how blue!
how far!
how sad!
how small!
how white!

and the back is the same only the ! is replaced by a question mark.
The front of the card is an exclamation about the experience of looking at things - the sky is blue, it is far away, it seems sad (blue) and yet small and white (clouds). The back by a simple change of punctuation indicates doubt.
The title of the card references the Russian artist Kasimir Malevich and the name he gave to the abstract art he developed from 1913 characterised by basic geometric forms and colours. The world is a simple place it seems to say.
This is the last of Finlay's earliest Standing Poems - he turned to publishing more standard formats of postcards for a while but returned later with D1 and the 4 sails works to the format.

4 SAILS (BLUE). 1966.

London: Chelsea School of Art, 1966
16.4 x 15.9cm. One of Finlay’s earliest paper sculptures - a fold out card publication jointly designed with and printed by Ed Wright at Chelsea School of Art. This is the blue version: black print on blue card. VG condition. Murray 5.3.
There were three variations - blue, yellow and red each printed black. These are now every hard to find.

4 SAILS (YELLOW). 1966.

London: Chelsea School of Art, 1966
16.4 x 15.9cm. One of Finlay’s earliest paper sculptures - a fold out card publication jointly designed with and printed by Ed Wright at Chelsea School of Art. This is the yellow version: black print on yellow card. VG condition. Murray 5.3.
There were three variations - blue, yellow and red each printed black. These are now every hard to find.

4 SAILS (RED). 1966.

London: Chelsea School of Art, 1966
16.4 x 15.9cm. One of Finlay’s earliest paper sculptures - a fold out card publication jointly designed with and printed by Ed Wright at Chelsea School of Art. This is the red version: black print on red card. VG condition. Murray 5.3.
There were three variations - blue, yellow and red each printed black. These are now every hard to find.

SIX CONCRETE POEMS. 1967.

Brighton: Brighton Festival, 1967
13 x 19cm, printed manilla envelope content of six artist designed cards. Finlay has Star Steer and there are other works by Augusto de Campos, Eugene Gomringer, Jose Lino Gruynewald, Dom Sylvester Housedard, Gerhard Ruehm. There is also an English translation of "From Line to Constellation" by Eugen Gomringer - a manifesto of sorts from 1954.

It is worth noting that Finlay is here amongst those regarded as the giants of the visual poetry movement - a movement that became most prominent in South America but by 1963 Finlay was also producing such works and here is recognised his prominence in the British scene.
All VG in envelope that has a few marks on the back and is stamped "School of graphics Chelsea School of Art".

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