Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first, then separate and drift, through all the earth and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea, something of me.
This is Andrew Hardwick’s first exhibition at Millennium. As I write this introduction, A landmark retrospective of Peter Lanyon is being held at Tate, St Ives. As one would expect, a visit to this exhibition is a testament to the power of land and sea, but more specifically to Lanyon’s sense of place, his entwinement within that place. The suggestion of the skeleton fused with the granite underfoot.
Andrew Hardwick is, of course, a very different painter, but we can observe similarities. Certainly in a rawness of approach, but Hardwick’s paintings are also born from an intimate relationship with location. This relationship is extracted in part from Hardwick’s farming heritage. Their farm adjoined the Bristol Channel and included a large acreage of tidal salt marshes. We see the dramatic shift in this landscape but also his personal history, for example in the painting ‘Ditches, Docks and Storage Car Park’ where the landscape of his childhood lurks beneath a car park where once the family sheep roamed, a place where the new world has superseded the archaic and we see the transition. In contrast, in the paintings ‘Estuary, Saltings, Sheep and Aeroplane’ and ‘Ogmore Coast’ the ghosts of crashed war aeroplanes become submerged by the terrain which surrounds them. The violent impact of what was then the modern world, now disintegrates and becomes entombed. This rapid transcience is also supported in the painting ‘Sand Bay’ where toy soldiers squirm in the soil of Hardwick’s childhood playground. The site had earlier been the location of an army camp and gun placement during the war.
All is fleeting, as the passing of time and geology of the earth seem to swallow up all that temporarily sit upon it - adding mass. Adding further delicate layers of history.
Where nostalgia is rendered with the use of toys, the application feels authentic. The intimation is emotive, suggesting triviality when compared to the heavy rendering of soil and stone. These trinkets - these memories, like all matter, become buried with the passing of time. Personally and universally - our own childhoods become lost.
It often seems that the pursuit of many landscape artists is to compete with beauty of the natural world; this objective sets up a competition with the muse, wrangling with its evocation of the majestic. Hardwick’s often large, cinematic panel paintings subvert these notions - the ego belongs to nature and we are reassuringly reminded of it. The beauty proffered is not conventional, or judgmental. These paintings are honest and unsentimental.
Hardwick’s raw surfaces appear almost attacked, with violent indiscriminate fervour - there is little concession towards fussiness or prettying. These are paintings that revel in material. Where paint, matter, earth and pigment, often from the direct source of the inspiration of a painting are poured and built in to a surface. They appear heavy but also fragile. That which appears delicate makes a consent to much considered ecological fragility. But the weight and the mass somehow reverts the balance in the argument, placing emphasis of the momentous power of the earth over us - a sanguine notion. We become just another fragile geological layer. Reminding us of our own loss of intimacy with our surroundings and in part our stain upon it - the inconsequence of our contemporary concerns. This is where I feel that their optimism lies; in that they confront our ego, by reminding us that some things are much bigger than us. Perhaps some things are more enduring.
ONLINE CATALOGUE (click below) :
ARTIST INTERVIEW FILM :
EXHIBITION VIDEO TOUR:
Andrew Hardwick is a British artist born in Bristol, England in 1961 where he still resides.
His often large scale, sedimentary paintings display his captivation with wilderness zones; both natural and man-made. Playing with and subverting traditional notions of romantic landscape painting and the sublime. The paintings often depict edge-land zones around big industrial conurbations or ports, such as large-scale car storage compounds, redundant factories and polluted waste lands. Other works draw inspiration from the more typically idyllic locations such as Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. However, these landscapes are also filled with reminders of human interference. Roads criss-cross the moor in deeply scratched lines, a narrow road is etched into an otherwise massive moorland triptych, likewise a real car radiator sits in the surface of a painting’s as if decaying and buried by the earth.
His medium of working is also atypical, paintings are heavily layered with different types of paint (often sourced from recycling centre), plaster, plastics, soils, pigments, roofing felt, hay and other unconventional materials. To this rich surface relevant artefacts are often added, creating reminders or triggering memories intrinsic to a particular landscape. The concept of layering in the landscape arrived partly a result of the artist’s childhood, during which his family’s farm was first sliced in half by the M5 motorway and then again by the Royal Portbury Dock. The land once filled with sheep has become a pure edge-land wilderness with detritus of the developments now filling the land. Hardwick’s entire oeuvre makes reference to concepts of change, memory, history and emotion. Ever redolent is the notion that we are but another layer in time.
Andrew Hardwick achieved an MA in Fine Art at the University of Wales. He is an elected Academician at the Royal West of England Academy. He has featured in four solo exhibitions at Anima-Mundi. Works have been exhibited extensively including numerous public shows and have been collected worldwide. Andrew Hardwick is represented by Anima-Mundi.