Sarah Mayhew Craddock previews Anne Hardy’s immersive show

Walking around Oxford the sense of people scurrying around, existing in their own head spaces in their very personal worlds is almost palpable.

London-based installation artist Anne Hardy invites visitors to step out of their worlds and into new, fictional spaces in her new exhibition, FIELD which opens in Oxford on Saturday.

Creating major new work for Modern Art Oxford (MAO), the acclaimed British artist has transformed the whole gallery into a series of immersive landscapes or ‘Fields’ constructed using found materials, wood, concrete, carpet and incorporating photography, text, light, colour and soundscapes.

The environments that Hardy creates have been described as ‘physically existent head spaces’; enveloping the visitor they are ambiguous physical and psychological experiences that are both functional and illusory. Visitors exit these spaces with the impression that they have passed through inhabited spaces that continue with their own activities once an encounter with them is over.

Describing the sculptural installations that she has created for her Oxford exhibition, Hardy says: “The exhibition is a sequence of four distinct spaces. My idea of a ‘Field’ is to do with thinking about a space that contains both the work and the visitor at once. I find that meeting between our own projection of the world and things themselves really interesting. With my exhibition I have aimed at making something that is experiential, so that you feel you are in the work as well as looking at or listening to it.”

The galleries at Modern Art Oxford were closed to the public for a longer than average time between in exhibitions for Hardy to install her work.

“MAO opened up the gallery to me as a space for production with a much longer install period than usual,” she says. “This follows the direction of my work to use the gallery as a place of working and making which reacts to the space. [It] allows me as an artist to develop work that simply wouldn’t be possible otherwise, and to develop my work in a really substantial way.

“Every gallery has a particular architecture and flow that I try to learn to understand so that I can work with it. At MAO I particularly enjoy how different each of the gallery spaces is, you move from a huge space to a very intimate one and then to a mid-scale space, which provides the opportunity to create quite different experiences.”

The sense of place that Hardy exists within as she creates her work also manifests itself in on a sensory level in FIELD.

“The audio components in my work are partly made up of ‘lost’ sounds from the making processes in my studio and exhibition installations over the last 12 months: metal banging on the road as I carry it back from the builders yard at the end of my street, concrete pouring from a trowel into a wooden mould, splitting wood as a wall is adjusted. So some of these sounds have been ‘collected’ during the installation here in Oxford,” she says.

Hardy takes inspiration from various other sources. She is interested in the way in which human nature is inclined to create stories in an attempt to make sense of the world. The fictional worlds of authors play a large role in the conception and evolution of her installations.

FIELD is set to be a fascinating, atmospheric exhibition of meticulously composed scenarios.

Where and when
Exhibition runs from Saturday until January 10 at Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke St, Oxford