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Bernard Hardy, Canberra Series

Bernard Hardy Salamander Paintings

Bernard and Christopher by Bernard Hardy

The Artist

According to Bernard Hardy's website in 2011, 'Art cannot be defined. Art's form and content through its manifestations are so varied, except to say that its principal characteristic is its power to move our feelings beyond its material components in such a way as to excite wonder, a sense of the strange, an awareness of the shaping powers of an artists as image maker'.1  It is 'art as inspiration; as a talking point'.

Although Bernard grew up and studied in Melbourne  (at the Xavier College and the Melbourne University), much of his life has been spent in Canberra. His solo and group exhibitions have largely featured in the Capital City from 1972. His works  are held in the Australian National Gallery, The Australian National University and in private collections in Australia, USA and in Europe. 2

Bernard Hardy first studied at Cordon by Bernard Hardy

The Works of Art

On the 19th June 2008, Bernard and Jill Hardy donated a series of paintings depicting the effects of the 2003 Canberra bush-fires to the University of Canberra. 'The fire makes you rethink your whole life. Everything was gone" said Mr Hardy. "Painting was therapeutic, it became an obsessive practice. After the fire I went back to my house and did some water colours of what was left. It wasn't just where I lived there was a much bigger picture. It was a snowball effect, it got bigger and bigger.'3

The works are titled 'The Salamander Paintings', which refer to any person or thing able to withstand great heat. "I see them as paintings but when I look at them they are also records,' said Bernard.4

"There is narrative value in the work. I'm not an illustrator but an implicit story is there," said Bernard, who was surprised by the amount of attention his work has generated. "Frankly I had no idea anyone was interested in the work." The paintings reflect on the type of loss the bush-fires created. "Historically and culturally, such a loss is enormous. All the things people collect and gather, letter, art and furniture went up." 5

The Bush Fire of January 2003

On 18th January 2003, four bush-fires that had been burning in the Brindabella mountains for more than a week combined  and roared into the south-western suburbs of Canberra destroying  500 homes and claiming 4 lives.Although most knew that the fires were coming, almost all  underestimated the scale of the firestorm. It was a massive bushfire that created its own weather, with cyclone strength winds  and fire tornadoes.

When the fires hit the suburbs, they took the public and the authorities completely by surprise. Four residents died trying to protect their homes or by trying to escape. Hundreds more people were injured, indeed some critically. They suffered serious burns, smoke inhalation, broken limbs and from exhaustion. Some 500 hundred homes were destroyed.  There was no official order to evacuate their homes.6

Forests near Canberra on fire 2003

Other related works include G W Bot's Hieroglyphs which was donated to the University of Canberra. The work depicts the shapes of trees after the bush-fires.


1 M16 Artspace, 'Bernard Hardy , a survey of works'  March 2011 M16 Artspace Griffith ACT, 20011.

2 Gallery 101 'Bernard Hardy' CV Held on artists file , Curator's cabinet.

3 Zsuzsi Soboslay, 'Embodied visions: invisible force in the works of Bernard Hardy' Art Monthly Australia, 259, May 2013. p78-79

4  Kathryn Favero, 'Artist donate's bushfire works to the University'  Moniitor ONline 20 June 2008, , Accessed , 4 April 2022, Also located on Artists file, Curator's cabinet.

5  ibid

6 Craig Allen, 'From a lighning strike to a city ablaze, Canberra Bushfires remembered,' ABC News 17 January 2013,  Accessed 4 April 2022, Artist's  File Curator's cabinet.