By Ian Hamilton Finlay, located 1986


Ian Hamilton Finlay’s tree plaques draw attention to the silence in the forest. In their simplicity of form and statement, they make us pause for thought, and help us become more aware of the need to be still and quiet in the presence of nature.

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Grove of silence, 1988, plays with the idea of signposts that mark hiking trails. This collaborative work focuses on the quietness of woodlands. A wooden sign carved with the name ‘Vincennes’ points enigmatically to the French forest of the same name, while concrete plaques, each inscribed with the word ’silence’ using different languages (carved by Nicholas Sloane), are fastened high on tree trunks (the sites having been chosen by Sue Finlay). This is one of the `difficult’ conceptual works and may be entirely overlooked as a sculpture by some visitors. One is inclined to stand and stare. The format of the work certainly questions the popular understanding of a sculpture or of conventional artworks. The visitor is forced to reassess the position of art, its function, and in this instance, the simplicity within the complexity of conceptually based artworks. Grove of silence is a particularly interesting work that focuses on the issue of ‘heightening one’s awareness’, a concept explored by several of the artists.

Wendy Ross: Stand and stare, Art in the Forest of Dean, Initiatives for South Africa