Friday, May 12, 2006

George Hughes | The African Modernist

George Hughes | The African Modernist

Looking at Hughes’ work one is initially struck by his spontaneity and his imaginative choice of materials for example, the use of spray paint, drawing parallels with American urban graffiti artists the application and fusion of oils, acrylics and fabric paint sends the onlooker into a quandary, even a spin. Hughes uses these numerous materials in order to permanently remain fresh but more importantly to create an interesting dialogue with himself and his audience. One thing that is glaringly apparent is his relentless artistic evolution and what makes his work so exciting is that one can draw few comparisons to other artists, either past or present.

Following no particular school of art Hughes is the ultimate artistic rebel and is in fact creating a new genre as an African Modernist. The closest artist that comes to mind is Julie Mehretu originally from Ethiopia and now a true New Yorker, she also uses a variety of artistic materials but that is where the comparison ends. Hughes is unique, dynamic and wonderfully understated. Once you think you know the work of George Hughes, he suddenly comes up with something outstanding, topical and brand spanking new. There is a distinct paradox to his work, an energetic confusion that incorporates blue prints and polyurethane enamels echoing the complexity of the artist and in this way Hughes keeps himself and his audience constantly interested and captivated. In his series of paintings, which pay homage to the game of football, Hughes draws interesting comparisons to the way in which life is a game being played out. The constant need to keep the ball in play and the focus on having goals and scoring goals. He has extended this idea into a performance piece highlighting the use of space while kicking a golden football while wearing a pair of gold football-boots. Gold is a direct reference to Ghana’s extensive gold resources in the Ashanti Region and the Ashanti Goldmines.

In the words of the artist:

“My works are a diary of introspection, and a residue of self-analysis. They are also an investigation into awareness in relation to the unknown, the familiar, and the essence of being. They are layered with multiple cultural, and poetic undertones that defy singular interpretation. Plural themes and the ambiguous use of pictorial space evident in these works reveal the contradictions of reality.”

Hughes is the artists’ artist, with his unwavering enthusiasm and appreciation for modernity, which seem almost infectious. His dedication and commitment to provide novel and original work is inspiring. Note his understated simple and fluid brushwork, which highlights his artistic ability, combined with his comprehension with the use and application of paint, which provides a sense of depth and a deep understanding of the unconventional materials chosen. Notice his creative use of complimentary colours, juxtaposed by the primary colours and the use of house paint, which sends messages to the audience of perpetual conscious mistakes. Hughes digests and filters everyday common visual language, such as a road signs or an exit sign and reassuringly places the familiar onto the canvas.

Those scrutinizing Hughes’ work will detect his apparent obsession with the urinal the WC, the John, the toilette, the bathroom this is derived from America’s uncomfortable neurosis with physical ablutions. Hughes cleverly plays on the word ‘Waste’ and with his overflowing taps and his pissing men, draws attention to and stresses the lazy, disposable, ‘throw-away’, society that the West has become.

It is glaringly obvious that Hughes’ contribution to modern art is tremendous and his work defines him into a category that can best be described as an original African Modernist. His attitude to art is commendable and his contribute to the modern global society is yet to be revealed. Originating from Ghana and now working as a lecturer in the States, his work reflects his numerous cultural identities and defines him as an original global citizen. Hughes’ mixed media pieces are arguably amongst some of the finest artwork being produced in the world today.

For More:
Author: Joe Pollitt

1 comment:

Leonidas said...

I'm in the process of doing some research for a documentary about Tanzania. The theme is conservation based but I am also a painter and would very much like to find out about any art production in Tanzania today. If you have any links or contacts you wouldn't mind passing on, i would be most grateful.
All the best,
Leonidas Liambeys
Anemon Productions
Athens, Greece