Gwen Hardie @ An Lanntair


Fern Insh

August 9th 2012

Gwen Hardie @ An Lanntair, Steòrnabhagh

Posted on August 9, 2012
There are still three more days to catch Gwen Hardie’s Boundaries exhibition at An Lanntair in Stornoway this week. Boundaries consists of intimate paintings which capture magnified fragments of the female body. With this, veins become rivers and moles become mountains. Focus on specific forms and the act of removing them from the overall context of the body encourages viewers to consider not only the function of each component, but to contemplate what actual and symbolic purposes our epidermis serves. Much like the exterior of the Earth, we sheild a sensivite organic core from threatening elements.
In addition to this thoughtful appreciation of the function of our skins, Hardie challenges the history of the representation of the female form. With consideration of how women have been depicted in art throughout modern and post-modern times in mind, she creates an alternative function for her typically sexually charged subject. Close-up images of curves have the ability to entice the voyeuristic. At the same time, however, through mimicking a view similar to that found through a scientific instrument, imperfections are also emphasised. Equally, therefore, one has the potential to be repelled by the sight. It is hoped that viewers will instead appreciate the exercise fundamentally as an intriguing experiment – exploration into the wider implication of the term boundary when applied to the body.
Hardie states:
‘I am interested in the way the female image has been portrayed historically in oil painting to convey spirituality and ideals of beauty. The female image has of course also been used to portray women within strict archetypes. My approach is to try and depict what I see with accuracy and an open mind.’
With these primary intentions at the forefront of her art, one wonders if the same effects could not have been achieved through the medium of photography. Hardie, however, qualifies that painting is most apt for her quest into the interpretation of the female form as it allows her to ‘convey a depth of perception and transport the viewer through beauty, in a moment in time, in a still frame’. Her practise is, therefore, aligned directly to forebearers of modern art; the Post-Impressionists. Paul Cézanne famously painted Mont Sainte-Victoire repeatedly in order to capture how vastly different the scene could appear depending on the combination of variables in place such as the time of day and the intensity of light. This resulted in many paintings of the same scene which looked completely different. With each painting, Cézanne captured a juncture in time in one single shot. Through adding more durability to Impressionism several moments were captured all at once – it is like you are looking over his shoulder at the view yourself. Similarly, through careful articulation of light passing over skin, Hardie creates the sense that the body represented is moving by the static window which you are gazing through. Blood seems to rush and goose bumps appear to form – this demonstrates Hardie to be a painter whom profoundly understands the purpose of her medium.

Inside the ‘Boundaries’ exhibition. ©An Lanntair

Boundaries at An Lanntair, Stornoway, will run until the 11th August. The gallery is open from 10am each day.

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