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Upcoming Exhibition at Whangarei Art Museum

Upcoming Exhibition at Whangarei Art Museum

Much like Rita Angus, the celebrated artist Jo Hardy moved North just as the centre of gravity for creative culture was moving from Christchurch to Auckland and beyond in the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike Angus who sojourned only for a few months (in Mangonui), Hardy stayed on and is regarded primarily as a well - established Northland artist. As a poignant reminder of Hardy’s Christchurch connections several of the paintings on loan for this exhibition have been ‘rescued’ from the recent earthquake, for some respite from constant rumblings, just as in 1954 Angus travelled to Northland for recuperation from her turbulent time in Sunnyside Hospital in Christchurch.

Despite Hardy’s relocation to the North, her artistic connections to Christchurch continue to distinguish her art practice in style and content. Following the lineage of Angus and Younghusband, she is a cerebral and figurative symbolist painter while simultaneously interrogating social and personal issues with a wry wit not often seen in these predecessors.

Senior Curator at the Auckland Art Gallery, Ron Brownson, has championed her work, and described her as a ‘magic realist’. Jo Hardy said herself in the catalogue of a previous group exhibition Outside the Circle at the Whangarei Art Museum in 1998;

“I am interested in portraying both what is and what is not. My pictures are deliberate record keeping of fleeting minutiae, memories, dreams, attempts to depict that which has no fixed visual form and narrative fiction.”

Both her writing and painting are well known to an audience in Whangarei and Northland from where her particular worldview emanates. For this exhibition, Director Scott Pothan invited Jo Hardy to self-curate a selective survey exhibition of her art work over the past couple of decades. Her show will complement the concurrent Rita Angus: Selected Works exhibition toured and presented by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa at the Whangarei Art Museum from April 23th to June 5th.

From the artist’s earliest childhood, drawing was a compulsion. She does not understand why. Jo Hardy speculates that perhaps since it was clear from her earliest self-awareness that she would never embody the beauty she needed in her life, she set about trying to create it instead.

Her paintings are mostly acrylic on canvas. She works on her knees on the floor, as if at prayer. Slowly, with care and precision, she builds up thin wet layers of coloured washes, tickling them up until they glow. Her paintings are lyrical narrative works, borrowing aspects of reality and using them as metaphors in a parallel painted universe. She believes we each invent reality as we go along; painting is one of the ways to do it.

Jo Hardy is addicted to line, the way colours change according to context, and tonality. She considers the proper subject of the artist is everything. Her trees are people. She is fascinated by the extraordinariness of the seemingly ordinary. Her pictures are her turangawaewae.

The artist considers painting to be more a calling or a vocation than a job – “a bit like being a nun.”

The artist thanks Patricia Guest, Quentin MacFarlane, Stephanie Sheehan, Tony Fomison, Yvonne Rust, Bill Parkes, Mark and Giles McNeill and Peter Millington for their crucial artistic support.


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