Katharine Le Hardy, If Wishes Were Horses

This body of work by Katharine Le Hardy looks at the history of play and the elemental simplicity of this aspect of childhood. Through play children learn and develop in every way; cognitive, physical, creative, social, and imaginative. Our childhood memories often orientate around play; most of us will feature a memory of a seaside holiday or a heady moment in a playground. The most vivid autobiographical memories tend to be of emotional events, which are likely to be recalled more often and with more clarity and detail than neutral events. Our more formed childhood memories tend to orientate around moments of heightened excitement, a ponderous rope swing or a first success on a bicycle. Memories of childhood, transitory and emotionally skewed, are captured here as rose-tinted snatches of a lost time. These memories feel nostalgic and fantastical in equal parts.


Photograph albums of family holidays trigger nostalgic recall of carefree days. Nostalgia is associated with a yearning for the past, its personalities, possibilities, and events. It comes from the Greek nóstos meaning "homecoming" and álgos meaning "pain" or "ache. It is asentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Nostalgia's definition has changed greatly over time, for centuries it was considered a potentially debilitating condition. The modern view is that nostalgia is an independent, and even positive, emotion that can improve mood, increase social connectedness, enhance positive self-regard, and provide existential meaning. 


Childhood nostalgia is not dependent on our individual memory, it is influenced by what contemporary society choses to exalt. Simplicity is something that many of us have been extoling during the past year or so. With reduced opportunity to travel and gather, people have been focused on their immediate surroundings, returning to simple pastimes, and often neglected activities from childhood and the associated joy. Also implicit in these paintings and the freedom of childhood is the notion of time. Time to play, time to be absorbed, time to wish. We hope these paintings encourage you to take the time to wallow in the affirmative experience of nostalgic memory.