The guardian – Artist of the week 64, Jessica Lack —2009
Anne Hardy’s photographs look like the illustrations to a Raymond Carver novel. They are strange retreats groaning with tattered junk, dark and unprepossessing. Prime,2009 for instance, is what I imagine the Unabomber’s hideaway might have looked like– not the sort of place you want to hang around in. Tiptoe across the floor and you might set off an explosion to rival the Northern Lights. Then there’s the decor: it resembles a cabin lined with wood paneling, crowded with tables piled high with detritus. Despite the absence of a protagonist, you get the certain feeling that there is method in all this madness. But Hardy’s photographs are always unpopulated; her scenes appear simply as shells where human existence might once have been present.
Born in 1970, Hardy studied painting at Cheltenham School of Art and photography at the Royal College of Arts. She is one of a number of contemporary photographers well aware that the documentary look is best recreated by using stage sets. Her particular ingenuity is to build these out of the junk she finds outside her studio in Hackney.
Carver once said it was possible “to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language and endow those things – a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring – with immense, even startling power”. At Hardy’s best, her photographs possess this clarity, with each understated detail integral to the overall scene.
Unlike contemporary artists such as Mike Nelson and Gregor Schneider, who build disquieting habitations out of rubbish, Hardy confines her practice to her studio and only ever exhibits photographs of the finished results. It is a painstaking process and many of the assemblages take months to complete. She cites east London as her greatest inspiration, the constant ejection of trash on to the area’s streets as her canvas. The objects she uses are humdrum and everyday, the little things we constantly overlook, yet the results are anything but. “It’s like pulling up the lino in your kitchen and finding another five layers beneath,” she says. “We like to cover everything in a veneer.”
Why we like her: For Incidence, 2009. Three oval mirrors hang on an institutional looking green wall. Above them burn a halo of screwed-in light bulbs, the kind you get in a dressing room. There’s something drearily familiar about the scene. It has the down-at-heel atmosphere of a youth club, one where there is a galaxy of bubblegum stuck beneath the snooker table and greasy marks on the wall where heads, tipped back on plastic chairs, have discoloured the paint.
Novel muse: Her greatest inspiration is the writer JG Ballard, whose stories inhabit a transitionary world of alien places, from high-rises to airports.
The custom of the country: A city dweller, she finds rural places unnerving.
Where can I see her? Anne Hardy’s photographs can be seen at Maureen Paley until 22 November 2009.