Paul Hughes lives and works in Blackrock, Co Dublin, where his studio for the last 15 years has been an old “pig barn” which has provided the opportunity to explore scale in his works. In his new exhibition “The Infinite Possibilities of The Space Between” at The Stone Step Gallery, Booterstown, he returns to his obsession with the “Dark-Light” of Ireland. His abstract work also tries to capture the connection between the land, the sea and the sky, particularly that of Dublin Bay.
Below, Paul Hughes tells us more about his artistic inspiration and evolution.
Can you tell us about your theme of the Dark-Light?
When I’m in my studio I only have one desire and that is to paint. When I’m not in studio I stare. I stare as much as I can at things around me. For a long time now my favourite place to stare is outwards and upwards across Dublin Bay. Absorbing everything I can inside of me, letting it wash through all of me. Because when I let myself do this I dream. I get lost in what I’m feeling and my thoughts just wander off to under expected places. Usually hugely imaginary places. I live in a place that when you stare you realise the light is constantly changing, moving, rising, falling, swaying, the light sometimes feels like it is breathing. And the light I love is that beautiful unique “dark-light” of morning and evening.
Dark-Light isn’t darkness per se. Dark-light is made up a myriad of colours layered upon each other, the sense of darkness comes from its inability to reflect everything back at us. Every darker part to me has so much more colour in it. So many more possibilities. The darker light is where I have always allowed myself be attracted to because it feels so much more intriguing, it carries so much more depth. So much more colour. This is what my paintings have always been about. The playing and shifting between between light and dark as you stare.
I have always been obsessed about the “space between”. The space between everything. The space between things is where everything happens. It is where understanding and misunderstanding lives, where relationships are born, where time exists, where lives are lived. The space in between things is in fact what we see, what we feel. At every scale it’s the space between that is critical. From this “the infinite possibilities of the space between” developed. I found myself being drawn to creating points of intense colour on canvasses and then obsessing about the space in between these points. These paintings aren’t a departure, I see them as a natural progression, a different way of interpreting and expressing what I feel I need to paint.
Do you have any favourite pieces in this exhibition and why?
Every piece has so much emotional connection for me. As with every painting I can virtually remember every obsessive stroke, every session, every part of the journey, every “getting it wrong”, every pissed off moment, every note of every song that I had on loop while painting each one. Most of all I remember everything I was feeling.
Every piece is an evolution. Every piece has a difference. I have no rules for painting. I have no desire to replicate or “do the same again”. Every piece begins the same, in total chaos and randomness but everyone will have a different finishing point. A uniquely different ending. The worst thing would be just a whole series of the same piece in slightly different versions. I’m flawed, my process is flawed, my paintings are flawed, allowing flaws is what allows things to move on.
That said, the original canvas for “desirous of everything. At the same time” has been with me for 15 years. I originally started painting on it in my development towards the “absorption” series of work. It was a pure experimental canvas. On this journey I took it out again and felt it needed to be apart of this body of work, I think it was always waiting for me to reach this place. When I worked on it I worked so fast and over three weeks I was lost in it.
Where and how do you work?
I work in a dishevelled, run down, beautiful, leaky, battered old pig barn in Blackrock. The most imperfect space to paint in, that makes it utterly perfect for me. I work with my canvasses on the ground. I use either pre-made stretched canvasses or I cut large chunks of canvas from rolls at random lengths and paint on them. And they are stretched afterwards. I place them on the ground and I stand over them, beside them, I move around them, always in constant motion. You have to adapt, push yourself, learn from every movement, every angle. Physically it is hugely difficult as being locked in a lunge position over a canvas, lost in your work, only to try and move an hour later. But somehow the more painful, the more exhausting, the more enjoyable.
What do you hope the viewer feels on seeing these paintings?
I roundly encourage people to go right up close, as close as they can when looking at my work. While I do paint large scale (these are medium size for me) quite often people believe you need to stand way back to get the full impact. While that is true I love stepping into that space between me and canvasses. To get really in and intimate with pieces, sections, gnarly bits. Let the flaws be revealed, let the lumps and bumps be observed. Smell them, sense them, touch them if you want.
I really hope these pieces can create reactions, create thought, provoke feelings in people, whether positive or negative. All I hope is that people allow themselves the time to stare at them and allow themselves to jump headlong into the space themselves and work and see where the infinite possibilities that lie in the space between takes them.
Need to Know: “The Infinite Possibilities of The Space Between” by Paul Hughes is at The Stone Step Gallery, 45 Booterstown Avenue, Dublin, from November 14: www.stonestepgallery.com
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