On Tuesday, July 3rd, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas will showcase a collection of works for the first time by established and seasoned woodturner, Robin Hardy. The exhibition will include approximately 15 pieces that move between functional, practical and aesthetic objects including his infamous bowls. The exhibition "Part Nature, Part Nurture" will be on view through Sunday, July 29th, 2018.
Robin Hardy was born in England in 1942 and came to The Bahamas in 1952. Educated at Queen's College and The Technical School, he graduated from the latter in 1958. He became qualified as a Certified General Accountant in 1968, but went on to make a career in general insurance, first with the Caledonian Insurance Agency and then with Peter Cole & Associates, retiring as the Coordinator of the Bahamas General Insurance Association.
Always interested in working with his hands, in 1999 Hardy made the transition from the world of accounting and insurance to the creative and, with a small log of tropical Almond, his foray into woodworking began. This discovery led to further interest in using locally grown wood and therein the salvaging came to life through an active collection of logs and outfitting of tools and a home workshop to craft the wood.
In 2000, after travelling to a wood show in Tampa, Hardy was further introduced to the machinery he would need to take his practice to the next level. After purchasing a sawmill, he went to work on cutting planks and shaping wood with saws and lathes. The latter a tool that turns the wood around the centre of rotation to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, drilling, facing, and turning, with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object with symmetry or without about a particular axis.
Madeira, Horseflesh, Wild Tamarind, Pigeon Plum, Ebony, Guinep and Seagrape are some of the local woods used in Hardy’s practice and each he treats with careful observation, honouring the grain, the qualities of the wood; the shaping and morphing of this once living tree into bowls, tables, light stands and, of course, pens, the thing that he has become renowned for in the country.
Hardy’s work has become well known due to his involvement in the annual Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Jollification and Wine and Art Festivals where he is given the platform to showcase his practice. In 2017, Hardy received a best-in-show prize in the “Tropicalism” category at BNT’s Wine and Art where his woodturning skills shone through brightly. Continuing to employ specific poetics, he submitted a piece that referenced a boat with a dugout hollow that was wide and womb-like. It told a story of migration and our Caribbean condition, and it did so without ceremony, in a simple gesture of stretching the belly, and the base of wood, the turning itself revealed the story in the wood.
This piece, like others in this showcase, evoke feelings around the reverence of the transformation that these beautiful parts of our natural landscape undergo as trees move from living, thriving and fecund to an object, felled, broken, diseased frequently discarded or made invisible in our landscape. Hardy saves these pieces from sure rot returning them to beauty, by injecting a new narrative into these giants of nature..
Though Hardy came to his wood practice late in life, he surely honours the giants and craftspeople who came before him and those practising within the current landscape like Roddie Pinder, Steven Knowles, Jeremy Delancy and David McGorrin. The local sector, while thriving, still has fewer than anticipated creators and one can hope that the eye cast on this craft and artform can inject more profound interest in the local creative community.
Doongalik Studios Art Gallery on Village Road has been spearheading the revitalisation of the art form as they annually host a woodturners’ exhibition which gives further support to the growing sector.
There is something quiet about Hardy’s ability to utilise something equally ordinary and extraordinary to make something functional and practical or something decorative and aesthetic. Regardless of how you enter his work, it is clear that his creative sensibilities feed off of these materials and in a way, the physical, spiritual and esoteric qualities of this impacts the sensation of the work. Hardy has also witnessed in his sixty-plus years living on New Providence the transformation of the landscape from being untouched and pristine back in the ’50s and growing up as a young man to arrive at a mature age to see how carelessly we are scaring our environment.
It is also clear from his relationship to his daily practice and time that he spends with wood and tools in his studio that there is a particular kind of care, nurturing and attention paid to the work. At times, it can take between a day and a week to turn a bowl, with the larger more unruly pieces of wood requiring even more commitment and reverence.
So it is there, in this reverence and quietude of the grain and finish of the wood, where one can see this transformation. The mapping and topographic qualities of the objects offer another kind of sustenance to the collector and onlooker, or to the maker as he finds himself secluded and intoxicated by the shaping and the metamorphosis of the tree.