A NEW exhibition at the University of Stirling is a real family affair.
“Skin Over Bone” celebrates the work of former Glasgow School of Art graduate and teacher James Hardie and his talented daughters - artist Gwen and film-maker Amy.
It opens in the Pathfoot Building on the campus on 2 March and runs until 3 May. Admission is free.
The exhibition title comes from the book “Stone Voices” by Neal Ascherson.
Jane Cameron, the University’s Art Curator, explains: “Ascherson was investigating Scottish identity through history and landscape. The search for true identity is a theme which runs through the exhibition, showcasing the work of three very distinct artists, united by their close family connection.
“The bone under the skin of Scotland’s landscape is explored by the work of James Hardie – now in his 70s. He’s worked in film and paint since he graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1959. His work includes portraits of family members and his love of flying, showing Scotland from the air.”
Hardie and his late wife Ann settled in Fetternear in rural Aberdeenshire, inspiring their daughters to become artists in their own right.
“They lived in a former school house where outbuildings became a painting, sculpture and pottery arts space, doubling as a playground and games hall,” said Jane. “The young girls remember rushing their tea to follow their parents into the studio to work and create art.”
Gwen Hardie (born 1962) is now based in New York. She became the youngest living artist to be given a solo exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. A graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, she has paintings on display in major collections in Edinburgh, London, Lisbon and New York. (Find out more at www.gwenhardie.com)
“Gwen Hardie takes a more literal look at ‘skin over bone’ – focusing on the landscape of the female body,” said Jane. “There’s fragility about her work which takes us beyond the surface of the female form.”
The artist’s website reveals: “Gwen Hardie's work engages with figuration and the act of perception. She first gained attention with her large scale tightly cropped portraits of women. Her magnifications of skin lit by natural light resemble light effects in the landscape and micro/macro views of cells/earth.”
Jan Patience, writing in the Herald newspaper, described Gwen’s work as “jewel-like ruminations on mankind’s place on a swiftly turning planet” and the New York Sun praised her for her “ethereal, near abstract figurative paintings”.
Michael Amy, writing for Art in America, said: "Like historical colossi, which hint at greater dimensions not yet reached, Hardie's colossal details intimate the sublime."
Last year Gwen Hardie was invited to show at Royal Scottish Academy’s Annual Exhibition in Edinburgh. The Times said at the time: “Hardies’s continuing exploration of the female body, not as a sexual object, but as a textured and flawed surface, contributes greatly to the show.”
The final family member on show is Amy Hardie (born in 1958) and now living near Peebles in the Scottish Borders. She expresses her ideas through film and was film-maker in residence at Strathcarron Hospice, near Denny, in 2012. (Find out more at www.amyhardie.com)
“Four excerpts, shot at the hospice, are screened as part of the exhibition,” says Jane. “We’re also hosting a free screening of Amy Hardie’s wonderful documentary film, “The Edge of Dreaming” for invited guests, to mark the opening of the exhibition on March 2.
“The Edge of Dreaming charts how Amy dreamt about the death of her horse, only to find her horse dead. She then dreamt that she would die aged 48. She filmed the year leading up to her 48th birthday, and the worries she had about her own mortality. Thankfully, she survived – but the film is a powerful glimpse into her family life and her search for answers about the provenance of dreams,” says Jane.
The New York Times described “The Edge of Dreaming” as a “serious metaphysical quest” and the Guardian said the film was “mesmerizing”. It also was voted Best of the Fest at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2010 and won the main critics’ award at the Kiev International Film Festival the same year.
“While Amy’s work bears no immediate link to that of her sister and father,” said Jane, “there is, at a deeper level, the familiar Hardie concern with reality underneath everyday surfaces – of the land, of the human body and human mind.
“We’re really excited about the exhibition and hope people will come along. In particular, I must thank Dr. Lindsay Blair of the University of Highlands and Islands and our local volunteers, who have helped us stage the exhibition.”
“Skin Over Bone” – a celebration of the work of three individual artists united by their family connection – runs at the Pathfoot Building at the University of Stirling from 2 March to 3 May. Admission is free and is open to all. The University Art Collection is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weekdays) and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (weekends). For satellite navigation devices, use the postcode FK9 4LA.
The tradition of collecting art at Stirling goes back to the founding of the University in 1967 when Professor Tom Cottrell was the first Principal. A scientist by training, he came from an artistic background and had very clear ideas about art and its place in society. He felt that art should be part of the everyday experience at the University and this vision began to take shape when Stirling was gifted a collection of the late Fergusson’s work by the artist's partner, Margaret Morris and the J D Fergusson Arts Foundation.
From these origins, the Art Collection has grown substantially and, over 40 years later, the University now has a diverse range on display with over 300 works covering a broad spectrum of modern Scottish painting, sketches, tapestries, silver and sculpture. Included are works by distinguished artists like John Bellany, Elizabeth Blackadder, Alan Davie, Joan Eardley, Eduardo Paolozzi and Anne Redpath. There are also regular temporary exhibitions by invited artists and of items from the University Archives. The University’s policy of continuing to attain new works remains a priority and ensures that new art is continually being acquired and displayed on campus.