Tag Archives: Britain

Blown Away: the Sculpture of Penny Hardy

Metal is often seen as cold, hard and inert, but one artist has found a way to adapt the material so it appears loose, alive and free. British artist Penny Hardy makes life-sized human sculptures from discarded metal, each one exploring an emotion or experience. These are installed in open-air settings, in fields or gardens or overlooking water.

Hardy originally trained as a scientific illustrator, which taught her to examine the intricacies of natural forms and observational draftsmanship. Throughout her consequent working life alongside architects and designers, she developed a deep interest in three-dimensional forms. These skills informed her later work as a sculptor—and here she is self-taught over the last fifteen years. 

You Blew Me Away


She was drawn to creating human forms out of discarded objects and seems particularly attuned to a sense of movement and energy within material form, capturing these in all her pieces, transforming inert materials into sculptures with a tangible energy. ‘The sense of movement and dynamics within sculpture provides it with its own life and vitality,’ Hardy states.

In the Blown Away series, she chose to use old metal machinery parts because these were made to be resilient and strong, yet were thrown away at the slightest hint of failure. Hardy felt that these imperfect pieces should be recycled to show some of the effects machinery has had on our lives and the environment. She says, ‘By using discarded, man-made metal items—which have been so skillfully made and used to create their own mechanical energy—I hope to extend their life in another form, re-use that energy for a different purpose, and exchange their function to create a new entity.’ You Blew Me Away (159cm x 75cm x 55cm) and Erosion (159cm x 45cm x 45cm) are examples.

Angels in Harlem

Hardy’s dance figures are wonderful affirmations of life and movement. Inspired by the dynamic forms of contemporary dancers, they use a flexible material like aluminium to re-create a visual sense of movement. Angels in Harlem (300cm x 200cm x 750cm), for instance, is a sculpture on stilts designed to gently sway in any breeze, creating a sense of constant movement.

Hardy has exhibited throughout the UK since her first public exhibition of dance sculptures in 2006, including at Doddington Hall, Hill House Dartington and Royal West of England Academy. More about the artist can be found on her website here

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Gillian Wearing: Disrupting the Surface of Everyday Life

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Since the 1960s, and particularly since the advent of conceptual art, photography has played a varied role in the fine arts. Photoconceptualism, for instance, uses the photograph as a document of artistic ideas and practice rather than as something that emphasizes the virtuoso craft of photography. It draws on the shoot-from-the-hip style of certain street photography, aiming for a non-art, ‘non-authored’ look; the ideas and acts that the photograph casually represents are more significant than the quality of the photograph itself.

Photoconceptualism can be used to disrupt the surface of everyday life, revealing its undercurrents. Gillian Wearing’s Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1990s), is an example of this. Standing in a busy area of South London, Wearing stopped passers-by and asked them to write down what was on their mind on white sheets of cards. With their permission, she then photographed them holding their words. Wearing has written that this collaboration ‘interrupts the logic of photo-documentary and snapshot photography by the subjects’ clear collusion and engineering of their own representation.’ A broad cross-section of people participated, so the series offered a social and historical document. It referred to the economic decline in Britain in the early 1990s, one individual holding up a sheet saying, ‘Will Britain get through this recession?’ Most of the signs revealed intimate thoughts or personal convictions, though. A tattooed man held up a sign,’ I have been certified as mildly insane’, while a smartly dressed man with an ostensibly self-possessed expression had a sheet saying, ‘I’m desperate’, and a policeman held up, ‘Help’. These photographs form part of Wearing’s broader interest in the interface of public image and personal identity, and demonstrate how it is through artistic strategies and interventions, rather than through the artistry of photography, that the depths of ordinary existence can be explored.

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