Commissioned in 1979, Sundial was carved by John Andrew to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s design. The inscription 'Dividing the light I disclose the hour' runs alongside the edge of the dial. The same text also features on the sundial in Finlay's own acclaimed garden at Little Sparta in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Like many other sundial mottoes, it dwells on the universal themes of time and light, thereby linking it to the ‘mysticism of light' which Finlay saw as a basic and recurrent theme in Western culture. According to this philosophical tradition, ‘light’ is equated with ‘eternity’, and ‘time’ with ‘shadow’. Without light, there is no shadow to disclose the hour, and the sundial loses its function. The sundial acts as a symbol of the importance of light, and invites us to turn our minds away from shadow. Instead the artist intended us to look towards the source of a divine light in the universe, one that illuminates human intellect, allowing us to 'recognise and imitate the good.'
Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925–2006) was a poet, gardener, moralist and neo-classical artist, whose work took many forms. Born in the Bahamas of Scottish parents, Finlay returned as a child to Scotland. Following a brief period at Glasgow School of Art, he served during the War in Germany, and subsequently worked as a shepherd in the Orkneys and later as an agricultural labourer. In the 1950s he began to write short stories and poems, and during the next decade became Britain's leading exponent of ‘concrete poetry’; later collaborating with specialist calligraphers, carvers and sculptors to create pamphlets, cards, prints to inscribe stone objects. In 1967 Finlay moved to an isolated farmhouse in Dunsyre in Lanarkshire, where he and his wife developed a modern version of the 18th-century poetic garden known as Little Sparta.
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