Interview : Kieren Hughes
Luca Curci talks with Kieren Hughes during BARCELONA CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR 2021 – 2nd EDITION, held in Barcelona, at Valid World Hall Gallery.
Kieren Hughes is a British painter, writer and occasional filmmaker. Originally from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, he studied Art in higher education before going on to study film at Southampton Solent University. He has written a variety of experimental screenplays for the London-based independent production company Macabra Productions and had his 2014 horror film ‘Solitary’ of which he produced with Macabra entered into the Cannes Film Festival’s short film corner. He has also written a compendium of short stories about 21st century London in his first book “Battery Life”. Whilst with painting, he prefers to practice automatism, he likes concern himself with the explicitly confrontation of, or withdrawal from, such modern-day concerns as the overloading of technology, the consumption of an overabundance of information and the uncertainty of one’s subjective viewpoint.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Kieren Hughes – I’ve recently been experimenting with the idea of incorporating writing fonts within my work and playing with how words and images interact to evoke certain moods or ideas. I’ve hereby been working on a huge triptych piece entitled “Notes 1”, in which I’ve overlapped all the handwritten notes I’d written from 2018 to 2020 to see if they take on new meanings. The overall theme will be how sounds are applied to structures to form sentences and how sentences and even numbers then form the basis of ideas, both positive and negative. I am curious to see if similar thoughts or feelings would repeat themselves or cohesively flow into other ones. This is also based on a film I’m trying to get made concerning a character who loses everything and is forced to rebuild his life within the chambers of his mind.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
KH – I studied art in higher education but had never really known at a younger age what kind of message I might want to say with it. I then used my qualifications in art to springboard into filmmaking as I was attracted to the potential complexity of it but of course, in spite of making a few short films over the years, films are incredibly hard to get made how you want them and so I found myself drawn back to art again. There wasn’t really a single experience that influenced my work but more so the steadily growing worries about the world I see building up around me in the 21st Century; it was these that then made me want to make art that could work as an affront to these. The first of these was to make art that was intentionally confusing as a way of warning people against the effects the sheer complexity of our interactive, digital world might have upon the psyche; the other was to bring back the lost art (or language) of the single visual image and the benefits of meditating over it closely over a longer course of time and what we can understand about our world, or ourselves, from doing so.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way? Why?
KH – This is a difficult question since I largely paint as a therapeutic exercise; painting whatever my current mood might bring out. To say how, why or even ‘if’ my style has changed is largely about the ‘how, why and if’ my inner state of mind has changed, to which I don’t really have the answers. I think if there is a consistent style, it is in building complexity through intricate details, later however, I became interested in spontaneous painting and incorporating writing in my work, this was largely born out of a need to get paintings quickly started and finished around my busy life schedule and resulted in a simpler and more abstract style which ended up receiving a better response and so I continued.
LC – What is your creative process like?
KH – Whilst I often set out with an intended idea or vision, I usually end up painting spontaneously whereby I just begin experimenting with colours on a canvas until I begin to make out shapes and forms and then apply details to enhance what I see. This process is largely dictated by mood but is also as problematic as it is interesting in that the time it takes to make it may vary meaning that your mood on one day might be significantly different to that of when you started. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
KH – With all my artworks, I believe I have a ‘rough idea’ as to what the final thing might look like bit like all artistic processes, this inevitably gets changed and revised as one goes along. The most challenging part of all this is when you are somewhere in the middle and you have no idea why something isn’t working or isn’t interesting. Here I can spend days, sometimes even months, trying to figure out what the next step might be to making it improve. Sometimes it might be a slight additional detail, sometimes a whole section needs to be reworked or sometimes it needs to be covered in white paint and started again from scratch. I think this is the thing that artists fear the most.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of pre-existing works?
KH – The three paintings that were submitted were some of my earliest and so potentially represent the origin of the methods I now practice.
LC – In which way is the artwork presented in our exhibition connected with the festival’s theme?
KH – With regards to the themes of cultural, physical, social and urban settings “Notes 1 and 2” deal with the idea of unintelligible, abstract structures, of images that ‘remind’ you of familiar urban or cultural shapes but are difficult to define. For me the way the colours and shapes bleed into one another makes me think of the way lights in an urban environment disorientate our perceptions of what we’re seeing, are they big or small, close or in the distance, physical or illusory? “Lesson Plan”, significantly for Barcelona since it was painted there, is more elicits more the ‘feeling’ of a Mediterranean or Latin culture. It was created via overlapping the lesson plans I was using while teaching English to Spanish students and then painting the gaps between such shapes and letters with the colours that best capture their culture.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
KH – I liked it, I think it was a great way to unite multiple different voices on a singular subject, have them all in one place and give them exposure to both the media and in-person professionals. Normally such things are segregated and so it was a new way to make such things fun. This interview method is also a bonus since it also allows the artist to explain their work at a greater depth than usual exhibitions, something of which very rarely happens and instigates even more interest in the works on display.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
KH – Yes, absolutely, I’ve found throughout my time as an artist that, either for reasons of the exhibitors’ financial interests or too much a rigid theme, it’s incredibly hard to get exhibition space when you’re starting out. Hereby I think the idea of a ‘thematically open’ festival is far more interesting since it grants space to artists of different cultures, backgrounds and alternating themes all in one place whilst also exposing them to professionals and journalists too. What’s also great about that is that each can then go on to discover and be influenced by each other.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
KH – Yes, I wasn’t able to attend the actual exhibition in Barcelona as a means to get the full experience I would’ve liked but I enjoy the principle of it and no doubt to apply to others once the pandemic has ended and it becomes easier to travel.