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George Hardie: Fifty Odd Years
Image Credit: 1976 Black Sabbath.Technical Ecstasy RGB

George Hardie: Fifty Odd Years

22 March 2017 | Georgia Foxwell

Having recently retired from teaching illustration at the University of Brighton in 2014, Professor George Hardie, a graphic designer, illustrator and cover artist to some of the most famous albums of modern day, is having his life’s work exhibited in a place that has long been his second home– The Brighton University Gallery. 

The title of the retrospective exhibition – Fifty Odd Years – gestures to the impressive length of time Hardie’s career has spanned, and as you navigate through the campus’ gallery space, the enormous collection of work on show reveals the versatility and, maybe more importantly, the approachability of his artistic style.  

2015 The Agency. Poster. (USA) RGB. Illustrated by George Hardie
2015 The Agency. Poster. (USA) RGB
 
For a man who has had such an impressive career and can boast of a portfolio of work showcased around the globe, Hardie remains a modest individual. The artist recounted at the exhibition’s preview how he felt about the institution that he devoted many years of his life to. ‘’I am delighted to have my work exhibited in such a huge space; it has been an honour through and through, from my years teaching up until this point now.''
 
Hardie also spoke about the importance and ‘magic’ of University spaces more generally. He himself studied at the Royal College of Art, where he delivered his most influential contributions to 20th century popular culture – the cover art for Led Zeppelin's debut album. It was in the College’s film school dark room where Hardie overheard people involved with the band discussing the possibilities for cover art. Hardie immediately offered to help. From then on, he provided artwork for some of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, including Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. 

Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here. George Hardie.
1975  Pink Floyd. Wish You Were Here. RGB
 
It is this important merging of minds at a critical point in life, Hardie argues, that allows for such unique collaborations. ‘’Whether it be a doctor and an artist, universities are about bringing people into the same space to then create in the future.’’  
 
The album covers might be the most recognisable pieces, but they in no way overshadow the rest of the artist’s work. The diverse collection gives an insight into Hardie's mind – mathematical, meticulous and humorous. The illustrations are as friendly and warm as they are thought-provoking, injected with Hardie’s sharp wit and intelligence. His work is easy to enjoy and makes light of the world and everyday objects surrounding us, often complimented with word-play and puns that drive home a punchline.  
 
It is for this reason that his illustrations have been sought after by an array of official names. A more recent example of Hardie’s work perfectly encapsulates the tone of much of what he has produced and why it remains such a popular stylist. His ‘Metaphorical Measurements for a British Olympics’ were distributed in booklets at the 2012 games and included an alternative measurement system for a range of sports. 

1999 Jet Travel. Royal Mail RGB. Illustrated by George Hardie
1999 Jet Travel. Royal Mail. RGB
 
The designs inject colour and playfulness into the everyday and help people to think outside of the norm, with a uniquely British sense of humour and set of references.  
 
Hardie has also designed stamps for the Royal Mail, producing a set of 'Magic Stamps' to interact with the public. These again show the Hardie's mainstream appeal through his ability to communicate so acutely and entertainingly in his illustrations. This is a man who has perfected the science of his artistic field.  
 
Fifty Odd Years is running between 11 March and 7 April 2017 in the University of Brighton’s campus building in Grand Parade, Brighton. It is free of charge and open to the public from 10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday; the gallery is closed on Sunday. For more information, see the University of Brighton website.

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