Shara Hughes

I'll Just Have to Work with This

07.08 – 13.09.2008

Shara Hughes paints imaginary spaces. Deserted interiors. Staircases lead to nothing, floors are leaning and chairs, plants and tables seem oddly endowed with spirit. The walls probably wouldn’t be able to sustain any weight, had they been real, and as such Hughes’ architecture isn’t meant for people. No one can live there, but such images live in the artist.


As the title of the exhibition seems to imply, the artists necessarily has to do with what she’s got to work with. There isn’t anything but the material and immaterial raw material. In the painting “Twister” a tornado causes havoc, almost like the brush of the artist, across the canvas. The damage it causes changes matter and seems to point to the artistic process as a ravage of material; a conversion into something else and unpredictable. The artist isn’t necessarily in control of her own ability here.


The recognition of the influence of experience on the artistic process is particularly evident in Hughes’ extensive quotation of the most canonized painters in art history. Hughes uses them as building material to create her spaces. The brush strokes of Matisse appear as a kind of spolia; the last remains of something old that is given a new meaning by Hughes. At the same time, by acknowledging her dependence on past masters so openly, Hughes cancels the often used judgment of taste that says “we’ve already seen that.” The material, the sources of inspiration are laid out for everyone to see.


While Hughes obviously paints like Matisse one place, Bacon another and Pollock a third, the paintings never seem plagiarized. She doesn’t paint after them, but their paintings are a part of her figurative world; a part of the raw material. The variability in her expression seems to underline the conviction of the ongoing influence of experience on the subject and the incontrovertible necessity of having seen to be able to paint.


Shara Hughes has graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. Later this year she will participate in the exhibition “Unreal: Altered Perspectives in Painting” at the new Saatchi Gallery in London.