Gwen Hardie: Gentle Yet Unnerving Work

THE recent exhibition of Gwen Hardie's paintings and sculptures at the Talbot Rice Art Gallery here provides further evidence that this Scottish artist has an uncanny way of getting under her own skin.

Her paintings, now emitting light and color as if from embers softly buried under a layer of ash, almost seem to pulsate as they entice the eye into and out of their subtle forms.

Both contemplative and sensuous, they seem to find a way of belying the fact that a painting is only an object on a wall covered in pigments, suggesting instead that the painter herself is somehow inside her paintings.

This rather unnerving impression partly results from the fact that, along with two female faces, her subject matter in this show mainly consists of navels and their surrounding areas.

Perhaps it is wrong to assume these are self portraits; they have little to do with the conventions of the female nude in art, whether from a traditionally male viewpoint or some more recently explored feminist stance.

Much more evocatively, Hardie's subject matter is somehow absorbed into the power of paint marks touched onto the surface of a canvas to transform it into light and shadow, sheer color, and atmospheric space.

Elusive to the eye, in some ways these surprising and gentle images are closer to Monet's waterlilies and sunsets than anything more recently painted in our century.

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