Skin Over Bone

March 2013

Publication: The Times


‘Surface’ is a term which comes to mind constantly when looking at the ceramics, painting and film of the Hardie family.
Ann Hardie was born in 1938 but died suddenly from leukemia at the age of 61.  Ann made delicate porcelain pots and small ceramic sculptures with surfaces like ornate sand-patterns or river systems filmed from space. Here, a small vitrine is all that represents the work of a significant talent.
Ann’s vision of a fragile world is revealed in a number of spherical pieces. These are no bigger than an orange, but have ornate, painstaking surface additions. The quality of porcelain allowed fine working, enabling her to develop her vision of a world on a micro and macro scale.
Adjacent to this vitrine is work by Ann’s second daughter Gwen. These pieces consist of delicate, spidery lines defining a series of three circles. It’s impossible not to draw parallels between Gwen Hardie’s graphic works and her mother’s spheres. Clearly, Gwen has inherited Ann’s sensitivity, her need for slow, reflective observational calm and the paradoxical notion that surface is highly revelatory of greater depth. It’s no surprise to find that Buddhism has formed a central part of her life.
Although Gwen’s fine lines are at a further observational remove form her mother’s sense of seeing, tending toward abstraction, they clearly begin with a relationship to the observed world, while leaving room for interpretation.
Circles and their geometric variants clearly intrigue Gwen Hardy. She often uses these forms to define the edges of her canvases. Unframed, these works imply that there is more to be seen, in the offing, just over the horizon. They also comment, implicitly, on the constraints of the conventional framed square or rectangle.
Like Ann, Gwen Hardie focuses intently on what is immediate and available. In Gwen’s case this is often her own body and, sometimes, that of another. In these pieces- painted in a palette of soft yellow, green and creamy hues - ¾ it’s possible to discern the veined skin of a wrist and a deep crease where the hand meets the arm. In other works, we might detect the point where the arm joins the torso or a chest, with distinctive mole, which makes an appearance in a number of other works.
The the beginning of her  film, The Edge of Dreaming , Gwen’s sister, Amy, says: “Some people love to find meaning in their dreams. I don’t think I do.  I make science films. I look at how things function. I like going under the surface of things”.
But here, uncharacteristically, Amy aims to get under the surface of her own psyche. The film shows her family life in the Borders and examines the symbolism of her dreams. One foretold the death of the family’s much-loved horse.  A second appeared to suggest her own death in her 48th year, through the words of a former partner.
Gwen and Amy’s father, Jim, has combined a career as a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art with a passion for flying. His painting is a synthesis of both, in which he uses imagery such as goggles, wings and propellers.  His painting is often inspired by the surface of the earth, seen from high in the air. As a younger artist Hardie created work on a smaller scale and some of these, such as Brooklyn Bridge Study (1988)  combine sensitivity with painterly talent.
Skin Over Bone is a unique opportunity to assess the work of four artists bound by blood and creative passion.