Where It All Happened Once
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Richard Hughes’ sculptural vocabulary deals with the undesirable or neglected objects we encounter in the present, but we are aware belong to another time. His engaging and powerful sculptural installations draw inspiration from the detritus of our urban environment; objects which evoke an image of abandonment or exist in state of limbo. Hughes painstakingly re-makes these objects, transforming them within the context of the gallery space into something enchanted, uncanny and spectacular.
At Tramway, for his most ambitious solo exhibition in a public institution to date, Hughes explores the nondescript urban and suburban places from British cities. A large proportion of the gallery is taken up by a scale replica of a run-down community centre, modelled on an existing space built in the 1980’s to serve the community of a housing estate. Its absurd counter pose suggests that the building was thrown directly into the gallery space in much the same way as a traffic cone or bike tire might be thrown onto a bus stop roof. The piece depicts the irony of an element whose function is to serve the community and yet is also subject to vandalism as a desire to “kill time”, offering a wry stance on failed social idealism and a devalued or lost sense of community.
Despite their realistic finish and abject palette of Hughes sculptures, they also evoke a strong sense of enchantment, transformation and the surreal. Many of the objects appear animated or disrupt our expectations of form and scale. Time and entropy are also recurrent themes in Hughes sculptures; the artist presents us with objects which are suspended in a state of demise, permanently arrested at the point in which their original function has fallen away and nature has claimed them back.
Through these images of urban wastelands Hughes revisits cultural and social history, evoking narratives charged with human experience, collective memory, melancholy and humour.