Manual - a limited edition book and works about hands that acts as a handbook of batch-production and design techniques
(Journal titles, Conferences, Exhibition dates and venues, etc. as submitted for the RA2):
I applied for a small faculty research grant (2003). I exhibited some of the pages (2004/5) as a work in progress. I work on new imaginary projects and ideas which are then deployed in consultancy or as ‘graphics without clients’. Two such ideas; a catalogue of batch-production techniques and a book about hands came together as Manual ; the perfect title to link content and purpose. Previous work prepared me for this project. Shop. Hardie and Miles. University of Brighton 1994. Scraps Di Londres 1994. Broken Books seven books exhibited. Pentagram 1998.
Further inspiration came from: an existing and growing collection of hand objects and images; producing uncompromised hand-related images for new commissions; an advanced knowledge from my practice and using hands as symbols that it would be possible to cover themes such as hand-language (words and pictures), religion and superstition, gloves, measurement, handles, rules, games and stories.
The reception of the work is covered under citations. The pages from the book have now been exhibited four times, in three cases with accompanying lectures and in one with a visiting professorship in Japan.
The exhibitions have all used a hanging system which emphasises the individual pages. They are hung separately or as a spreads from wires and can be touched. In two cases the book was available as an object in its then state, again to touch. The frame and glass were avoided.
Each image, and depending how you count them there are 86 in the book, can act as piece of graphic communication, an example of a different technique of printing, a way of making an image, a way of having the idea for the image. In a booklet within a book at the end, Hints Tips Wrinkles & Nods, I set the scene with notes from my batch-production teaching (from Shop) and a reprinted essay on my working methods (Drawing-my Process). I then describe anecdotally how images were made and how ideas were generated.
My research involves collecting. A small example of inspiration and methods: I notice, “wearing my spectacles for seeing hands,” a hand-shaped sponge. It goes into a box labelled hands (c 1993). In Manual it appears as a photograph of the object which sits opposite a print sponged from it. The notes at the back of Manual connect this use of pochoir with two other techniques used on other pages, hand-colouring and tooth-brush spraying.
Another example: A small book in an envelope, an elegant typographic re-mix of the Opie’s research into the paper, scissors, stone game is backed with a bad photostat of a Japanese plastic dice version of this game, which is nearly as old as hands.
Rian Hughes’s review of the Manual exhibition at the Pentagram Gallery: "Described by George Hardie as the process of ‘going amateur’, this is more of a book of ‘graphics without clients’ than an artist’s book and contains some 90 images and inserts, many with hand made elements: tipped-in silk-screens, found objects, sign language charts and road kill glove images. Taking the theme of all things hand-related they display Hardie’s fascination with the printing process, using a limited colour palette, type/image counterpoint, the re-contexuralised informational chart or sign, the found woodcut image and the verbal and typographical pun…Relating a narrative is part of Hardie’s fascination with image – a narrative often delivered in a single frame, of some event that has passed…George Hardie is that rare breed: an illustrator with an exquisite sense of type and design, and a designer who can actually draw."
(Eye 55 Vol 14 Spring 2005)
"Hardie does all the things that a professional illustrator should: he solves problems; he draws with exactitude; he makes images that delight because they are challenging. Hardie is consciously self-depreciating titles nod to a career spent working mostly around, as he says, “wanting to do good work. I never saw it as a career thing. But then, I was very lucky – things just fell in my lap.” But in image after image he achieves something beyond just professionalism: he doesn’t just solve a problem or create a compelling image, rather he draws visual ideas that force viewers to “wear a new pair of spectacles,” and open up to a new visual experience of even the most familiar terrain…."
Most recently, Hardie has produced Manual, an ode to the hand. This is a serendipitous collection of images and objects that resemble hands or relate to hand ideas and phrases, including sign language, gloves in odd shapes, and momento mori. As usual, Hardie plays with or subverts clichés: there is a picture of a tiny Japanese milk jug as big as a pinch (and so noted with a finger print) that was in fact ‘pinched’ by a friend in Japan; an octopus in the glare of headlights casts a hand shadow behind it instead of vice versa.
"The books are a reminder of what’s possible for Hardie. He has no interest in being anything other than a ‘graphic artist’: ‘I’m aware that there are a lot of fantastic things that one can do that are still graphics. I’m not interested in being thought of as an artist – I still very much like the language of graphics. And making things, really.’ What all of these projects come round to, though, is Hardie’s constant activity of seeing and categorizing. Hardie is not searching for a profound meaning in his activities, and neither is he making any of the moves towards broader career significance. Instead, as he puts it, ”What I’m saying is, ”I’ve noticed this, have you? Or, now you’ll notice this from now on. Artists I really admire, they’ve done that. You suddenly see their work everywhere. Or you look at the world through their eyes. So I suppose that’s the highest aim I would try for."
Hardie’s design process is articulated in Profile / George Hardie, Dan Nadel, The Rules of the Game, pages 38 to 45 Illustrated Eye 58 Vol. 15 Winter 2005.