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Counter-Argument, 1978

Graphic material, 9.4 x 13.8 cm

Ian Hamilton Finlay is considered one of the pioneers of visual or concrete poetry. In his work on paper, he turns language into a constant play of subtleties, ironies and poetic elements, both in terms of the content and the form that his messages take. Some take on the form of what they are communicating, such as a mountain built with the word horizon. Others turn speech into friezes, letters, pyramids, columns and other graphic elements, always in accordance with their semantic referent. Among that of other artists, his work has been compared to the visual poetry of Joan Brossa.

The work in the MACBA Collection gives a good representation of the artist’s universe. Hamilton Finlay takes the word Column to construct, with its fragmented and repeated syllables, a column; or constructs a message of political content: When words have failed, there is a state of war. There is also a critique of the painting of Picabia, the representative of the avant-garde of the early twentieth century whom he accuses of intellectual terrorism, demanding Cancel Picabia now. As in much of his work, whether on paper or inscribed in stone or other media, Hamilton Finlay vindicates classical antiquity, the works of Ovid and Virgil, and neoclassical architecture, but also the aphorisms of Marshall McLuhan, the communication theorist who argued in the late 1960s that, in a global world, ‘the medium is the message’.

Technical details

Original title:
Registration number:
Finlay, Ian Hamilton
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Graphic material
Lithography on cardboard
9.4 x 13.8 cm (height x width)
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Work purchased thanks to Havas Group
© Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay
It has accessibility resources:

The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

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