In her current solo exhibition at Rachel Uffner Gallery, Shara Hughes continues her exploration into landscape painting by focusing in on the representation of flowers. In Lieu of Flowers features seven paintings of various sizes hung along the four gallery walls. Walking into the room, you are engulfed with Hughes’ trademark stylistic combination of aggressive beauty.
Hughes paints vibrant, immersing landscapes with no pre-existing reference. Imagined scenes come to life on her canvases in an intuitive, evolving method of creating. Hughes works in multi-step, detail-oriented process. While painting, she finds herself in exploration of the possibilities that her medium and various materials together hold. There is a subconscious, carefree nature to each of her works, despite their meticulous mark making.
Viewing Hughes’ works, it is easy to lose yourself amongst the vibrant colors and expressive paint strokes. She employs numerous materials in order to challenge the rules of the medium and to keep fluid moving in her process. Just as she combines subject matter, the materials on the canvas combine to create a complete composition.
The flower as focal point is a deviation from Hughes’ previous works. Typical depictions of flowers generally exude joyous, upbeat feelings. Hughes infuses her floral landscapes with a range of emotion. Her paintings are hauntingly gorgeous, somehow emitting both attraction and anxiety on the same plane. The works feel like they have an energetic pulse, as though they could break free from the physical barriers of which they exist.
Hughes’ ability to synthesize the styles of many of history’s best landscape painters into her own intimate yet expansive, familiar yet uncanny portrayals that aren’t really about nature at all has solidified her presence in the contemporary art world. If landscapes are Hughes access point into her fiery practice, we hope to be seeing more flowers for years to come.
In Lieu of Flowers will be on view at Rachel Uffner Gallery through June 22.