Shara Hughes Interview: Changing the Way We See

The fast-rising American artist Shara Hughes is widely praised for her vividly coloured invented landscape paintings. We met Hughes in her New York-studio to talk about drawing inspiration from other painters, and why she feels that a good painting is about “going to the edge and not giving away all the answers.”

Early on, Hughes referenced other paintings in her work, trying to figure out what kind of painter she wanted to be and learning from her mistakes. She still embraces these allusions to other painters – such as David Hockney – that come up in her work: “It’s gonna be a mix-mashup because it’s almost impossible not to have some kind of reference.” Hughes uses many different techniques when painting and doesn’t choose a specific colour scheme in advance, waiting to see how it will all unfold: “I’m always trying to do something I’ve never seen before with comparison to my own paintings.” She feels that her landscape paintings are almost placeless, and she was initially attracted to doing them because it made her think that she didn’t “need the subject matter as much as I needed to make the painting.” In her flower painting-series, she continues, the flowers become more like self-portraits or portraits of other people or crowds: “It adds a little bit of narrative to the work, but it’s still not enough to make you feel you have to understand something to look at the painting.” In contrast to the beautiful and delicate way in which flowers are usually depicted, she continues, her flowers are active and aggressive: “I’m embracing the idea of changing the way we see something.”

Shara Hughes (b. 1981) is an American painter, who is particularly known for her colourful invented landscapes. In 2017, Hughes was included in the Whitney Biennial, and her works are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of Art in New York, the Denver Art Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., the Si Shang Art Museum in Beijing, and the St. Louis Art Museum, among others. Solo exhibitions include the Arts Club in London, The Newport Art Museum, Gallery Met at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. She lives and works in New York City.

Shara Hughes was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at her studio in Brooklyn, New York in April 2019.

Camera: Jakob Solbakken

Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner

Edited by: Klaus Elmer

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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