“Without art the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” – George Bernard Shaw
A soothing balm. A calming presence. An escape from reality
Art is a window through which we can look, we can enter, and we can manage an escape from our troubles and doubts. Films and books, paintings and sculpture—each provides us with an opportunity to reflect or to reinvent. Whether we are the artist or the audience, art is a reprieve. For Australian based artist, Lucy Hardie, aspects of escaping reality and escaping the ordinary are alive and well in her mesmerizing works.
As children we experience this escape via artistic invention the first time our caretakers begin to unravel a simple bedtime story. Fairytales are our first introduction to an alternate universe. A moment of fantastical absorption – imagining how lovely it would be to be a princess for a day. Their playful nature twirls through our minds while alluding to the morals and lessons we will come to appreciate once mature and grown.
Hardie resonates with the impactful nature of such fanciful escapes; fairy tales are a prominent guidance in her fine pen and ink drawings.
I think fairy tales are such beautiful allegories of what it means to be human. My parents read them to me as a child and I read them now as an adult, and I still find them just as poignant and evocative. The various forms of darkness characters are challenged to face in the stories are always precursors to the character’s transformation and liberation. This is something I can relate to, and that I want to present to viewers through my work: death and darkness as catalysts for transformation and a more beautiful experience of life. The fine black and white illustrations that accompanied my favourite fairy tales have also had a great influence on my aesthetic. I gained a lot of technical information by studying the images closely and attempting to replicate what I saw in my own drawing.
As we progress from our childhood, fairytales transform into lengthier novels, more obtuse concepts, yet still a window through which reality melts away. Just as you can lose yourself when infatuated with a good book, you can lose yourself in an artist’s marks left on a painting or a drawing.
I find it easy to lose myself in a piece of art if I can connect with it in some way. And that’s what I aim to do through my work, make pictures that my audience can connect with. I don’t see it as escaping reality, just getting in touch with a different version of it. That’s what I love about great art, it always inspires MORE more possibilities, more joy, more wonder, more beauty, more of whatever qualities and experiences may be important to the viewer.
Looking past our relationship with art as an audience member, think of how artists such as Hardie can escape through their process – an alternate path to the window’s edge. Hardie, as many professional artists, has a routine to set the stage for this meditative production of visual life.
I like to start my workday early, and meditate and exercise before I go into the studio. My morning practice helps me feel energised, focused and ready for the day. I usually spend 6 – 8 hours at the easel and listen to music, podcasts, or interviews while I’m working. Music is integral to my process; it helps me be in the state I need to be in to sit for long hours.
Her routine, her process, are the instruments through which various ideas of the world morph into digestible pieces of imaginative escape. Fragments of personal theologies soak into the canvas and lay delicately on the grass outside the window. A focal point in Hardie’s work is the female form.
I’ve tended to focus on depicting women in my work because the feminine experience is one I am most familiar with and so it comes out naturally, and also because the feminine form so beautifully reflects the sense of sensuality, tenderness and intimacy I aim to capture in my pictures.
Just as we feel that our escape is complete, that a novel is complete, that our time looking through the windowpane is finished, Hardie knows when her time creating a work is over.
I know a work is complete when it is harmonious. Often, it’s just a few tiny tweaks, adjusting a few details that make all the difference.