Anne Hardy, fig-2, ICA London and Twin Fields, The Common Guild, Glasgow

26 June 2015 By

The coincidence of two notable solo shows by this London-based artist prompts me to write about Anne Hardy today.  If you happened to cross Waterloo bridge last autumn you will have seen part of Hardy’s contribution to the Hayward’s Mirror City exhibition:  in addition to an installation inside the gallery, six photographic works were installed as enormous billboards across several of the gallery’s sculpture terraces looking out over the river or on to Waterloo Bridge.  There was also an important solo show at the Kunstverein Freiburg last year.  Her busy summer now includes shows in London and Glasgow as well as preparing for a solo show at Modern Art Oxford in November .

Hardy’s practice is evolving rapidly, out of the photographic work for which she first became known. Back in 2006 her works presented large-scale C-type prints of installations in her studio; these compositions that intriguingly slithered between abstract visual games and something resembling the aftermath of an obscure celebration or ritualistic event.  In her photographic works, Hardy placed the viewer on the threshold of a three dimensional space, looking in.  Since 2012, however, she has been presenting the walk-in installations as the finished work itself and with the current show at The Common Guild Hardy has taken one step further by incorporating the architecture of the gallery.  The gallery occupies a wonderfully proportioned 19th century town house, with sweeping staircases and immense windows looking down across gardens to Glasgow’s grey stone West End.  Over the several floors of the gallery Hardy has stacked a series of immersive environments that situate the viewer in one after another very precisely calibrated series of perspectives.  Critically these installations are operating not only on a visual/spatial level, but include sound as well.

And here is the link to the fig-2 which will open at the ICA studio on Monday, and consists also of audio elements combined with installation.  In Hardy’s work sound has a narrative function only in so far as it reflexively narrates the materials and fabrication of the three dimensional work.  The soundscapes are recordings of the pouring of concrete, the rolling of steel rebar on studio floor or the splitting of wood.  It is the audio environment of the studio, re-mixed and then collaged in to the physical installation; the narratives that lift off from these multi-sensory environments are tissues of association, memory and allusion. Hardy has commented about the way her attitude to sound changed over time as she began to regard it as “discarded parts of the sculptural process which I began to think of as being sculptural material objects in their own right”.

In both shows Hardy uses the device of a coloured carpet to create a visual ‘field’, a defined space in which to deploy her strategies.  A palette of scarlet, cobalt blue, emerald green and vivid yellow offsets the elegance of concrete and plywood forms that pile, climb and balance, strategically illuminated by an occasional fluorescent strip light.  Familiar from her photographic works, there is a most poised control in the disposition of geometrical forms that is reminiscent of early 20th century Supremacist painting.  More than this I will not analyse.  You have to be there, the performative element in the work, to really appreciate the brilliance of it.

Caroline Douglas

The Common Guild, 21 Woodlands Terrace, Glasgow G3 6DF. Exhibition open until 16 August 2015, open Wednesday – Sunday, 12.00 – 17.00 and until 19.00 on Thursday, or by appointment.

ICA Studio, Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH (entry via Carlton House Terrace). Opening Monday 29 June 2015, 18.00 – 20.00, exhibition runs until 5 July 2015. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11.00 – 18.00, except Thursday, 11.00 – 21.00.