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  • 'Landscapes opened a whole new world for me, one that was awesome and exciting […] There’s something very open-ended about the idea of a landscape that appeals to me too. All landscapes are constantly changing, whether it’s the time of day or the temperature or the weather patterns and things growing and dying. The constant state of change created so much possibility.'
    —Shara Hughes

    Creating strange, surreal landscapes bursting with bold, clashing colours, American painter and printmaker Shara Hughes engages energetically with the art of the past in her refreshingly spontaneous and decidedly contemporary take on the genre of landscape painting. Working exclusively from her imagination and adopting an intuitive approach to her un-planned paintings, Hughes’s vibrant compositions explore what the artist describes as ‘invented landscapes’ – placeless places that resonate with emotional depth and posses a universal appeal, as her stratospheric rise since her 2017 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial debut would suggest.

     

    Details of the present work 
    Details of the present work 

    Night Vision

     

    Executed in an intensely rich palette of cobalt blues, cherry reds and electric shocks of yellow, Night Picket invites us into a strange, night-shrouded world as mysterious as it is alluring. Visible through a gap in the tightly grouped trees, the butter-yellow orb of the moon illuminates the scene below, its light reflected in the smooth surface of a calm, circular pool at the centre of the composition. With its sharply rendered tree-forms and lunar disc thrown up in the sky behind Night Picket contains strong visual echoes of Surrealist Max Ernst’s forest series from the late 1920s and early 30s, capturing the same careful balance between enchantment and foreboding that animate his frottaged forests. 

     

    Max Ernst, le fôret (The Forest) 1927, Sprengel Museum, Hannover © 2021. Photo Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur fuer Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021
    Max Ernst, le fôret (The Forest) 1927, Sprengel Museum, Hannover © 2021. Photo Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur fuer Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021

    Cloaked in undulating lines of thick, luscious foliage that encroach in upon it from the picture’s edge, the pool is circled by a group of sentinel trees, strangely human as they stand to attention. Picking up on this theme the title, Night Picket, conjures the image of soldiers sent out to watch for enemies, the angular forms of the broken branches scattered on the ground lending the trees a somewhat ominous air. Tightly organised and creating a magnetic sense of depth, the ripples of turquoise and aquamarine draw our eye up and into the very centre of the composition, generating a visceral push-pull sensation as we strain to move beyond the solid trunks in the foreground.

     

    Dramatising the act of looking itself, Night Picket deliberately obscures the luminous pool at its centre, transforming the trees into a framing device or border that sits like a grate across the surface of the composition. A common feature of Hughes’s work, these frames play with the physical limits of the canvas and the definition of the painting on those terms. As the artists describes ‘sometimes I make paintings that you can really travel “through” […] and then the next painting everything is right up close in front of you. So I like being able to kind of like pull you in in one painting and push you way out and kind of like rattle you’.i

     

    Fauves in the Forest:

    'Ms Hughes contribution to the present is vital because she combines these historical traditions with current ones […] There are plenty of nods to historical precedents, and yet Ms. Hughes’s paintings look spontaneous and unaffected, as if, paradoxically, she has done no homework at all'.
    —Roberta Smith

    Moving on from the domestic interiors that dominate her earlier canvases, Hughes’s shift to vividly realised landscapes allowed her to engage more robustly with early modernist aesthetics – the saturated tones, brusque brushstrokes, and heavy outlines familiar to Fauvism blending with the angularity and darker psychological elements evident in key exponents of German Expressionism featuring particularly prominently in her work. In her wonderfully agile treatment of line, saturated palette and flattening of form, Night Picket vividly recalls the Fauvist landscapes of Maurice de Vlaminck and André Derain as much as it references more contemporary masters such as David Hockney. 

  • Celebrating rather than covering these allusions, Hughes deftly synthesises elements of early 20th century avant-garde painting and makes something entirely her own, a way, in her own words, of ‘getting all the satisfaction of painting, and the history of painting, in one.’ii

     

    Entirely fictional spaces, Hughes’s landscapes are not tied to the representation of physical or psychological truths, but freely explore the energy and flux of the natural world, the limitations of her medium, and the boundaries of her imagination. Marrying ‘apperception with fictional time and space’, as one early reviewer put it, Hughes’s paintings function like a ‘byway through fractured layers of consciousness […] a rabbit hole that, truth be told, one is extraordinarily reluctant to escape.’iii

     

    Just this year Hughes has opened solo exhibitions at Galerie Eva Presenhube, Zurich and Le Consortium, Dijon as well as her exhibition of new flower paintings at Garden Museum, London. In its close-cropped focus and careful attention to the relationships of form and colour Night Picket anticipates this recent shift, and signposts what new territory the artist might push the genre into next.

     

    Shara Hughes Interview: Changing the Way we See, Louisiana Museum 

     

    Collector’s Digest

     

    •    Well-established through a series of smaller exhibitions with galleries on both sides of the Atlantic, it was her inclusion in the 2017 Whitney Biennial that garnered Hughes major international attention.

     

    •    Since her first solo show in 2007 at Rivington Arms, New York, Hughes has been showing steadily in galleries across the US and Europe for nearly 15 years. In 2020, Hughes opened her first exhibition with Pilar Corrias in London.

     

    •    Her works are included in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of fine Art, the Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Denver Museum of Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

     

    •    Her first major exhibition in the US opens in September at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in September, and she will also be showing at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai in November. 


    i Shara Hughes, in interview with Alex A. Jones, The Brooklyn Rail, June 2019, online
    ii Shara Hughes, quoted in Katie White, ‘”Landscapes Opened a Whole New World for Me”: Artist Shara on How She Subverts the Tradition of Flower Painting’, Artnet News, 17 August 2020, online
    iii Anne Prentnieks on Shara Hughes at Marlboroough Gallery, Artforum, February 2016, online

    • Provenance

      Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Maria Vogel, 'Shara Hughes' Intuition Brings Depths to the Canvas', Art of Choice, 22 December 2018, online (illustrated)
      Mia Locks and Ian Alteveer, Shara Hughes: Landscapes, New York, 2019, p. 87 (illustrated)

9

Night Picket

signed, titled, inscribed and dated '2017 SHARA HUGHES LONDON ''Night Picket''' on the reverse
oil and acrylic on canvas
170.2 x 154.9 cm (67 x 60 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £869,500

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741
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Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021