Building upon her previous exhibition at Sutton Gallery in 2015 Hughes develops her interest in the complexities of children’s visual learning. For Everything Goes familiar images such as children’s stickers, striped electrical tape and geometric shaped toys, are combined onto the paintings with an accomplished trompe-l’oeil technique that acknowledges cubism, and the roots of collage.
Hughes has been influenced by watching her young sons create visual imagery, both their relationship to materials and their immediacy in mark making. Particularly, Hughes keenly observes their non-hierarchical representations “an abstract mark has a much importance as a head or dragons tail.”
The negative shapes around the stickers or cut outs are as significant for Hughes as the positive forms and she deftly melds them together in these new paintings to create curious combinations and diverse dialogues. These juxtapositions are echoed in Hughes choice of painting methods, washes of dye meet transparent spray, overlapped with thick opaque brushstroke; carefully considered painted layers also add to the fragmented discourse.
Justin Paton in an early essay on the artist’s work draws our attention to the fact that “Hughes belongs to a generation of kids who plastered their bed-heads and cupboard doors with stickers and who covered their exercise books with stick on floral KonTak.” i. Perhaps she is coming full circle, now seeing her own children engaging with the latest sticker offerings. A dogs hind leg brings to mind the preschool TV series Paw Patrol and an oversized mushroom the darker side of Alice in Wonderland.
For Hughes there is a joy in these new works, a lightness of touch (literally from the materials as well as from the way imagery intersects), but as with all her work there is an underlying current of research and conceptual rigour.
Hughes practice has attracted significant attention throughout Australasia. Recent solo exhibitions include: Sing a Rainbow, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2015; Veneer, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2013; Palonbasi Neydu Hokistshro, Sutton Gallery Project Space, Melbourne, 2012; The Golden Grain, Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand, 2011; For Kultur, Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery, Napier, New Zealand, 2010; Heat Wave, Federation Square, Melbourne, 2010; Feedback Runaway, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany, 2009; and United we Fall, Christchurch City Art Gallery, New Zealand, 2008. Selected group exhibitions include: As Many Structures As I Can, New Dowse Museum, Lower Hutt, 2013; Flight, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany, 2012; and Peaking the Edge, Plus Gallery, Denver, Colorado, USA, 2011.
Hughes has also undertaken a number of high profile public commissions, including Pin Wall at Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery in 2015; two large-scale permanent works for the ANZ lobby in Auckland; a series of striking outdoor works for the reopening of Cathedral Square in the centre of Christchurch in 2013/14, as well as a temporary installation entitled Heat Wave at Federation Square, Melbourne in 2010. She has been selected to participate in a number of notable residencies including the International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York, in 2007; and Creative New Zealand’s Berlin Visual Artists Residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien between 2008 and 2009. Her paintings and installations are held in many important Australasian public and private collections.
i. Justin Paton, Warpspeed, P. 9, Pub. The Hocken Library, 2004Artist’s profile