Gwen Hardie has distilled her fascination with the human figure, down to its surface and what lies just beneath. Zeroing in on the flesh, these latest paintings could be anywhere you see a sprinkling of freckles and the undercurrent of veins, Hardie has abandoned previous anatomical landmarks—glimpses of an areola or telltale crease, and so removed all vestiges of narrative and psychological overtones.
Several years ago, Hardie settled on using tondos and oval shapes for her work because the squares and rectangles she had been using invited the viewer to mentally add on more, mosaic-fashion, to the composition. Circles and ovals are self-contained shapes, which your mind accepts as complete. They’re also sensual and feminine and reference the alpha and omega of nature from the cosmos all the way down to cells.
There is a distinctive volupté quality that comes from the consummate fleshiness Hardie depicts—one can sense the warmth, softness and pliancy of the skin—yet these paintings are also rather dispassionate formal opuses into how light and shadow plays on the surface of things and the manipulation of volume and spatial direction.
Hardie’s work will be part of REALITY: Modern and Contemporary Painting, Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, UK (September 27, 2014 – March 1, 2015), a survey of the last 50 years of representational painting which includes other art world luminaries as Lucien Freud, Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville and Peter Doig.