After two days of inspiration at Semi-Permanent Melbourne, where I was wowed by some truly creative stars in visual arts and design, I came home to pour over my Semi-Permanent book. And lo and behold, whose work should I see in the publication, but that of Ocean Grove artist Lucy Hardie who specialises in fine pen and ink drawings.
By coincidence (or synchronistically, depending on your point of view), I had just been exchanging emails with Lucy asking questions about her artistic practice for a blog post.
Lucy works from her home studio in Ocean Grove and last year she graduated from NMIT with a Bachelor of Illustration. Her meticulously rendered work is darkly surreal, mysteriously seductive and conveys the transient nature of earthly life. In fact, Lucy says that Memento Mori, Latin for ‘remember your mortality’, is a recurring theme throughout her work.
Lucy has an exhibition coming up at Salt Contemporary from 1-24 November which will include select original works and limited edition giclee prints. This will coincide with Robert Ingpen’s exhibition, Looking for Clancy.
A special thanks to Lucy for sharing her work and thoughts, giving us an insight into her artistic practice. As you can see below, her work is exquisite!
What is the main medium you work in and what do you like about it?
The medium I work in predominantly is ink on paper. I use Pigma Micron pens in size .005 on cotton paper. I love the detail that I can achieve with a fine point and the opportunity it allows to create a sense of depth through the application of many fine layers.
How would you describe your work and what do you hope the viewer gets from it?
I would describe my work as glimpses of an experience of life many of us seem to have forgotten. I would describe my aesthetic as being an amalgamation of all the artistic movements I have studied and been influenced by and that have helped shape my own visual language so far. Particularly the old masters, Baroque art, Symbolism, Romanticism, Aestheticism and Fantastic Realism. My technique and thematic preoccupations are influenced by many of the artists who have worked within these movements. What I would like people to experience through my work is a deeper sense of the mysterious, for my work to act as reminders of our already free and interconnected nature.
Does your work have any social, political, or cultural messages?
The message I seek to evoke through my work may be applied in a social, political, and cultural setting, however, it is not defined by any of these contexts. The message I seek to communicate through my work pertains to the human experience, one that underpins all our activities, regardless of time and place. My work is all about experiencing more of who we are. Call it what you will, I call it, our True Nature. To others, it may be a deeper experience of mystery, of wonder, of awe. ‘Memento Mori’ (Latin for ‘remember your mortality’) is a theme that’s been portrayed in art for centuries and is one I also carry through my own work. In my work, death is presented as a catalyst for transformation and a deeper experience of life, each piece symbolically reflecting an intimacy with death as a means of pointing to what remains deathless: our True Nature.
Which is more important – aesthetics or conceptualism in art?
I believe both are important, that each serves to support the other in communicating the artist’s message (if the artist is seeking to communicate a message, that is). I think concepts without aesthetics can leave a work dry, flat, and aesthetics without concepts, shallow. I believe the combination of the two is ideal if seeking to reach the viewer with maximum impact.
What sort of research and or reference materials do you use for your work? Can you tell us about a typical day in the studio?
I have a growing collection of photographs, books, and other artists’ work that I refer to for inspiration and technical information. I refer to photos for the realistic aspects in my work, often working from several photos in the creation of one particular feature of a composition, such as a face. The rest is created spontaneously and intuitively.
A typical day in my studio will begin at about 9am. By that time, I’ve usually mediated, exercised and had breakfast. I will have my work space set up, with computer and reference photos at hand and music on, and will generally sit at my easel or drawing board for most of the day. If I’m in the flow, I will skip lunch and will usually finish at about 5 or 6pm. The day will be broken up by writing emails, and maybe a Skype chat while I work. That is a perfect day in the studio.
Who or what provides inspiration for your work? How has this shaped the course of your work?
Where do I begin? Many artists past and present provide inspiration for my work, particularly those whose work exhibits a high level of technical skill and elicits in me an experience of the extra ordinary, the enigmatically beautiful. I am interested in those whose work includes and goes beyond evoking a purely conceptual response in the viewer. In chronological order, the artists that have influenced me so far include but are not limited to: Vali Myers, Harry Clarke, Remedios Varo, Ernst Fuchs, Vania Zouravliov and Albin Brunovsky. I undertake through my own work a personal research into their techniques as a means of facilitating my own expression. Their fascination in exploring the hidden, less commonly traversed aspects of the human psyche, their performances preciseness and the importance given to detail and precision, are apparent in my pictures. I have poured over each artist’s work in books, online, in galleries and museums, and learnt from them in this way. I am also deeply inspired by Integral Philosophy and conscious growth, and using personal experience as a means of creating connection with my audience, through my work.
All artists experience challenges in their art practice. Can you tell us about any you have had?
The main challenge has been putting in the time and dedication to grow my skills and techniques. This has required a lot of self discipline. In our mainstream arts culture, the development of technical skill is not a focus, so I have needed to pursue this through my own means. While this has been a huge pleasure because I’m doing something I love, it has meant making sacrifices. I spent most of my uni holidays in my studio working, while others put down the pencil for a few months. My other challenge has been looking at my work and seeing how far I still have to go to reach the level I’m aiming for, all the work I still need to do to get there, and not being able to find the teachers or schools to teach me what I’m looking to learn. I’ve always turned to studying my favourite artists in books, and emulating their techniques that way.
Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?
I travelled to Austria in 2009 to commence study with US artist, Philip Rubinov Jacobson, learning the mischtechnik, an Old Masters method of painting using a combination of resin, egg tempera and oils. This was a transformative time for me. While in Vienna, I saw the work of Ernst Fuchs, contemporary Austrian master artist and founder of the school of Fantastic Realism. I lost my mind, literally. Although, I do remember one departing thought while standing in front of one of his paintings: “THIS is what art’s all about”. What I experienced while looking at Fuch’s work became the drive behind my creating. I wanted to create an experience for people that went beyond the rational mind. Being in Austria was also an amazing opportunity to connect and spend time with other artists from around the world. During this trip, I also visited many museums and galleries in Europe, and saw the work of many great artists, which was further fuel for my artistic progress.
If there was one piece of artwork you could have in your collection, what would it be and why?
I would chose The Triumph of Christ (1962 – 65), a large scale drawing by Ernst Fuchs. I first saw this giant drawing in Vienna at Fuch’s villa, and was astounded. I had never seen anything like it before. It was wondrous. I literally could not see how a human hand had created it, and this was part of the magic. There was no evidence that a human had created it. It was as if the middle man had been taken out of the equation, and there was just the work of art, straight from… Nowhere.
How long have you been painting and has there been a highlight in your art career?
I have been drawing and painting all my life, but began to take my practice seriously after my debut solo show at Synergy Gallery in Melbourne in 2007, which sold out on opening night. The highlights of my career so far have been exhibiting in Europe and the US alongside some of my favourite contemporary artists, including Agostino Arrivabene (Italy), Maura Holden (USA), and Dmitry Vorsin (Russia), having my work featured in various publications, and receiving representation with Port Jackson Press Australia earlier this year. The viewers who receive my work and respond to it, are also fundamental to what I do. To have the opportunity to create for an audience, to be able to provide an experience for others that inspires and uplifts in some way is the greatest highlight. That’s where the joy is.
Have you always been an artist? What did you do before becoming an artist?
Since relinquishing my dream of being a pro basketball player at the age of 16, briefly pursuing study in professional writing when I first moved to Melbourne at the age of 20, and flirting with ideas of several seemingly safer career options, I finally accepted art as my thing. After all, it always had been.