Hardy Perennial

A new retrospective of the work of George Hardie is open now at Brighton's University Gallery, offering visitors the chance to explore fifty years' worth of his fascinating, visually astute design and illustration...

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George Hardie is a legend within the graphic arts—over the course of his fifty-year career, he’s built a reputation as one of the country’s most renowned and beloved conceptual illustrators. A new exhibition at the University of Brighton, which opened this month, celebrates the fruits of five decades' worth of labour and offers a masterclass in the visual articulation of ideas. 

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Hardie is often mentioned in the context of the golden years of album cover art, creating the cover for Led Zeppelin's first album and working for a time with Hipgnosis during the 70s, but as this exhibition shows, that work constitutes only a relatively small part of his extensive oeuvre. His particular knack for marrying precise draughtsmanship with challenging, playful and occasionally absurd ideas is evident in the extensive range of work on show in the exhibition, ranging from visual poems to Royal Mail stamps and restaurant menus.

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Throughout the works on display, Hardie's thought processes and particular fascinations start to reveal themselves. His work plays with context and perspective, drawing together objects, tricking the eye, juxtaposing the familiar with the out-of-the-ordinary, and encouraging the viewer to take a second look. Collections are another recurring theme, both as a concept to be explored through illustration, and in the traditional sense; his cache of rulers from around the world is on show in a vitrine, safely under glass in case visitors are inspired to start some collecting of their own. 

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Hardie's relationship with the University of Brighton goes back many years, and he has lectured and taught here extensively, so it's a fitting site for this retrospective—there's a huge amount of work on show, though you get the sense that this is still only a fraction of his whole archive. Whether you're a long-term fan, a new admirer or a student or practitioner looking for inspiration in your own work, Fifty Odd Years offers a thought-provoking peek inside the mind of one of the masters. Don't miss it.

Until 7 April, Brighton University Gallery, 58-67 Grand Parade, Brighton BN2 0JY. Free.

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