Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Anne Hardy at Maureen Paley

Posted in Reviews by mollybretton on October 20, 2009

Prime, 2009

At the centre of ‘Prime’, a small wood carving of an antelope stands surveying the surrounding landscape – a cluttered collection of metal propellers, bundled cardboard firework shells, shredded paper and coils of metal wire.  Two sky-lights illuminate the wooden shack; foil and paper wedge the roughly hewn gaps between the planked walls.  A large pile of sawdust rises from the worktop ledge, a spattering of stray darts pepper it’s surface.  With closer inspection this mound transforms into a miniature, contested landscape when we notice the English and American flags printed on each of the darts tails.  Initial thoughts of this being a space of recreational tinkering fade in the presence of these politically suggestive objects.

Intense and cryptic the six large-scale photographs that combine to create this exhibition are the photographic equivalent to a fiction novel’s opening paragraphs.  Imaginatively and methodically Anne Hardy sets the scene, introducing us to our new surroundings but unlike in most novels Hardy does everything but introduce us to the main protagonist.  This absence of human presence is the real intrigue of her works, as we pick through the densely populated settings to try and build an accurate imagining of who the inhabitant of these spaces may be.  Left only with the detritus of objects abandoned mid-stream, each item seems a witness, pregnant with information of previous human activity.

In the photograph ‘Unity’ cold light falls in shafts onto sheets of red plastic that cover a semi-circle of partitioned booths.  Like a stage, the floor shows white tape that would seem to indicate the absence of other frequently used props in this scene.  Images of eyes printed onto red circular stickers dot the roughly textured black walls. Trails of limp, black bunting hang from the ceiling along with gold metal chains that emphasise the room’s tapered wig-wam shaped structure.  There is a touch of sci-fi about the setting and there is also a hint at influences of religious architecture as our eyes are encouraged ever heavenward back to the top of the building.

Meticulously created in her studio these sets call to mind the pedantic photographic processes of Thomas Demand.  However, despite traces of the familiar in some of the architecture and objects Hardy depicts, unlike Demand’s work, everything about these photographs is a construct, a fiction. In rendering these spaces, we imagine that Hardy embodies a process similar to that of a Method actor and in trying to conjure these missing fictional characters we find the boundaries between artist and imaginary inhabitant blur.

The disconnection between the three-dimensional nature of the sculptural set and the rendered two-dimensionality of the final photograph encourages a mental leap for the viewer.  The original sculpture is dematerialized and rendered as a conceptual construct since we are never allowed to experience it in any other manner than that which the artist has dictated.  It is the controlled intention behind each detail of Hardy’s photographs that is the real content of these works.  All that we see is under the absolute control of the artist.  At issue here is the value that one gives to the detail Roland Barthes referred to as the punctum, an absorbing detail unplanned by the artist and entirely personal to the viewer.  Such a detail is deliberately denied a place in these works, where Hardy saturates each photograph with intention in every detail.  Although our immediate impressions of these images spark intrigue and fire imagination, Hardy paints the scene with such precision that we are left excluded not knowing what part we have to play in this game of make-believe.

Unity, 2009

Anne Hardy at Maureen Paley from 9 October – 22 November 2009


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