In the project gallery we are presenting Simon Hughes, another Winnipeg artist, in his first solo show in New York. Five recent large scale watercolors represent the range of imagery Hughes employs. His masterfully rendered realistic paintings are at once playful and carefully controlled. His iconography combines stylized icons from the Canadian landscape like icy structures and the glittering aurora borealis, with interiors from his studio. The juxtaposition of the abstracted northern frontier with houseplants and kitschy items like rainbow mugs create a playful window into his practice. The careful masking process used to create patterns is impressive as he uses watercolor and mixed media in seamless gradients with believable trompe-l’œil or collage effects. His glowing color fields are sometimes layered with splattered paint as he re-imagines modern methods to create contemporary images with a retro sensibility. The layering of his painting with inkjet transfers of varying texts relating to nature, science and family are both mysterious and humorous. Incorporating his young daughter’s drawings provides immediacy and levity when introduced to his generally tight renderings. The overall impression of his imagery is a celebration of Canadian landscape and domestic harmony.
Hughes has worked in a variety of media, from his meticulously rendered watercolors shown here to film and video. He has received grants from both the Manitoba and Winnipeg Arts Councils in addition to the Canada Council for the Arts. The large scale watercolor triptych included in our group exhibition Out of Nowhere in 2011 (curated by Sarah Anne Johnson and Meeka Walsh) was acquired by the National Gallery of Canada and shown in their recent Biennial called Builders.