ART & EXHIBITIONS LIST
New work from Gwen Hardie (below), and the British Art Show reviewed (page 58).
LISTINGS: GLASGOW 56 EDINBURGH 57 MUSEUMS 60
0 i | S k i n 8 Gwen Hardie’s work has developed in clear phases. Hilary Robinson welcomes the chance to
view the latest at the National Gallery of Modern Art.
Gwen Hardie’s painting keeps moving. Her exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art will mark a third distinct phase since 1984. In that year she left Edinburgh College of Art to study with Georg Baselitz in Berlin, where she still lives. Although the three different phases of her paintings look superficially different, they are all explorations in the representation of the female body, and the relation of the substance of the body to the external world. Her work has also (less consciously perhaps) been an exploration of a feminine visual language, and has certainly been in sharp contrast to painting by Scottish men of her generation who have, like her, found an international audience. It is good to see the National Gallery giving her the space to exhibit, particularly after the Scottish Art Since I 900 exhibition, when her work was marginalised in favour of Campbell, Howson and co.
The paintings in her exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery in 1987 were a revelation. Her female bodies leaped. ﬂoated, curled in on themselves in pleasure or fell achingly. Their outer limits were described in lines of dark colours, but they were painted into a single coloured background and across the horizon line, so that the inner and the outer spaces were one and the same. In addition, the body’s inner cavities (particularly those that define a body as female, the vagina and the womb) were described with the same heavy lines. The female body was represented as whole and fixed within the four sides of the canvas (although threatening to burst out at any moment). But despite this, the feeling of the viewer was that it was an ambiguous
representation of femininity — corporeal yet
intangible. The internal femaleness was presented as being as important as the external; the sensuality and expressiveness of the woman
did not stop at her skin.
Works such as Fist ( 1986) developed a different relationship to the body in terms of representation. Close-ups of sections of hands or other parts were so huge that it was only possible to recognise them from a distance. Closer up, those representations shimmered into a surface that blurred edges and definitions, and merged
the body with the space around it. It was like looking through a magnifying glass at the back of your hand; the paint was applied with sponges in an all-over pattern that mimicked the tiny crevices of the skin.
The bulk of the work to be shown in the National Gallery will be from the third stage in her work, which takes the idea of magnification even further. They are mainly in austere black and white and neutral ochres, akin to the way in which colour seems to disperse under a microscope. The same all-over pattern of paint application is in evidence, but now she draws us in so close to the skin that identification ofa particular body section is impossible. What we are left with are the tactile qualities of paint as a metaphor for skin; with no intellectual recognition possible, we have to rely on sensual, emotional reactions. Some of these paintings look almost celestial - again like looking through a microscope, when sometimes looking at cells or objects can result in hallucinatory sky-like images.
About the time she embarked upon this series of works, and in order to push herself technically, Hardie experimented by sticking plastic bags or pieces of paper onto the canvas as a surface to paint on. The result was a number of transitional works, where technique and content of the paintings were not satisfactorily co-ordinated. But while this was resolved in one way, by turning the plastic or paper collaged ‘skin‘ into a painted skin in the pictures described above, the experiments also led offat another tangent. Hardie began making reliefs, constructing a skin ofcollaged paper over an armature of chicken-wire. Forms which are human-sized or larger, but not quite representative ofthe body, are placed in relation to each other; the spaces between them (sometimes reminiscent of the internal body cavities of the earlier painted women) are considered by the artist as carefully as the forms themselves. This will be the first time that this work will have been exhibited; it may mark the start of phase four in Hardie‘s output.
0 wen Hardie opens at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 14 February.
— VAN GOGH’S EAR
I PAOLOZZI Sculpture lor Edinburgh. Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (other title: ‘0ueen’s Sculptor in 0rdinary') is to make a
sculpture to sit outside Queen Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh. The scheme (negotiated by Scotland’s public art agency, Art in Partnership) is to cost some £120,000: sponsorship has been given by Tom
'liwilt-Fit’ Farmer. The whole ot the top at Leith Wallt is to be re-modelled (though you would be
: lorgiven lor thinking that
this had already happened), and the sculpture will be placed on a new grassy patch. It seems that Scotland’s most lamous sculptor-in-exile and best-known car mechanic were boys together, give or take a low years. in Leith. Glaswegians who take the train to London will know Sir E's worst ever sculpture:
a large brassy cartoon version oi Edinburgh castle sitting outside Euston Station.
I ALBA'S EDITOR Resigns.
Peter Hill. editor ol Alba. has resigned. Hill, who set up and tor three years has almost singlehandedly produced Alba, became increasingly disillusioned at the lack of support by Scottish galleries tor a Scottish-based art magazine with an international tlavour. This became so acute that the
last edition. due out in autumn 1909. will not appear until this month because advertising was not lorthcoming. ironically. Hill was recently ‘headhunted' by a major American magazine; however. he's giving up the world oi publishing to return to his own painting with a six-month residency in Australia.
I SAC GRANTS The SAC still has talth in Alba: their grant to the magazine has kept pace with inllation. as
lrom some ot the almost exclusively male lull-time stall. there will not be one in the lorseeable iuture. A headhunter is now on the
have most visual arts grants. Exceptions are the Portiolio Gallery and Variant magazine. both at whom nearly doubled their
grants to £30,000 and prowl tor a suitably £4000 respectively. qualitied contender. I iiEADLESS COLLEGES Edinburgh College oi Art
Glasgow School at Art is still minus a director. Katharine Crouan. vice-principle ol Winchester School oi Art.
has also tailed to appoint altera poor lield ol applicants. and will re-advertise. The colleges have been Ieadetless lor8
was oilered the post but and 10 months mpectively. declined. The School has and morale has hit an never had a woman director all-time low.
- and judging by comments
The List 9 — 22 February I990 55