Paul Hardy

The stories behind the stories
Artist layers paint, narrative and his own story to create visual poetry

Paul Hardy l Photo: Christie Vuong Paul Hardy l Photo: Christie Vuong

If you search Paul Andrew Hardy's name on the Internet, you won't find anything about him or his work. And that's just the way he wants it for now.

"I'm intentionally under the radar until after school. This is the time to experiment," the second-year MFA in Studio Arts (Painting and Drawing) student explains during a break in his studio in Concordia's Visual Arts Building.

Hardy, who has several solo exhibitions to his credit, is very much into pushing the envelope in his practice. "I'm obsessed with how paint can be transformed. I want to see if I can make paint look like dust, like fabric."

He experiments with effects to create textures and layers that tell the stories behind stories, sometimes clearly visible and sometimes a mere whisper. He sees paintings as relics: "They're a history of the exploration.  You see the undercurrents; you don't necessarily see the history of the narration, but it's there."

It could be said that his body of work reads like a history of his own life, a diary of sorts.

Layers reflect life

Hardy recalls being somewhat surprised to realize at one point that his drawings and paintings from specific times in his life reflected the influences of that time. Some of those influences still run like undercurrents in his work, particularly in terms of style and vision.

The "old-looking" quality he sees in his work, for example, might be traced to his early years on Prince Edward Island, where the only art he was exposed to hung in museums. During his teen years he listened to a lot of music, and eventually he became a musician. He talks now about his paintings as being poems or songs, describing some as love ballads and others as rock tunes.

The sci-fi his two elder brothers were into has been integrated into his art, as well. Hardy wasn't moved by the stories so much as the aesthetics of the genre's art style, and the concept of dystopian and parallel universes.

Paul Hardy, Untitled, oil-on-canvas, 80'-x-70', 2012. Click to enlarge. Paul Hardy, Untitled, oil-on-canvas, 80'-x-70', 2012. Click to enlarge.

Then, when he was 20 and attending university in Moncton, New Brunswick, Hardy took a trip to New York City. He visited such storied institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Seeing masterpieces in person completely changed the way he perceived painting.

"The things you can do with paint really blew me away," he recalls. "I saw I wasn't exploiting paint the way I could be. I thought, 'wow, I have a lot of work to do'."

After completing his BFA, he packed up and moved to Montreal. Many of his contemporaries were headed there and, as an Acadian, he wanted to keep speaking French. Primarily, though, he went for art's sake. "I needed to be surprised, to be stimulated by the art I see."

Since entering Concordia's Studio Arts MFA program, attracted by the quality of the professors and the vibe of the environment, he finds his work has drastically evolved. Another significant layer has been added to his own canvas.

The fact his work tends to reveal what's happening in his life means his art will, by nature, always be deeply personal. That's alright with him since, while he's certainly not averse to commercial success, he's not interested in chasing trends or belonging to the next big movement. And so the whole World Wide Web doesn't need to know quite yet, either.

"Painting is personal, it's poetic, and it brings me pleasure." 

Story by Liz Crompton. Posted on March 14, 2012

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