For its second exhibition, The Garage continues its investigation into the perception of art and its context with Woody, a solo show by Sydney-based artist Natalya Hughes. Woody will take place in the garage of 34 Longstaff Street in Lyneham, with an opening party on March 7th, 2016 (6 to 9 pm).
Natalya Hughes works stand in a borderland between abstract painting, installation and decoration, crossing psychological theories and feminism with a pop, ironic quality. She creates patterns that saturate the space, spreading out on canvas and wood, on wallpapers, on an old mattress or a platform, so that the garage is transformed into a unitary installation, an aesthetic experience through seriality and repetition. This way of conceiving the space raises many issues, related to individual fruition and to the concept of artwork itself. Using different patterns it creates a discontinuity that highlights the shape of familiar objects and, at the same time, hides it behind a bright decoration. Moreover, these objects cannot exactly be identified as paintings, if we refer to the traditional idea of a painting. They are pure ornament, flat surfaces without any subject; in their repetitive development there is nothing left for the expression of a tormented, artistic self.
In fact, the question whether decoration could be considered at the same level of “high” art was already asked in the 19th century, first by William Morris and then by the Art Nouveau movement. They were among the first who, in modern western society, got to a level of stylization that could be considered abstraction, but their motifs were devoted to beautifying functional objects, wallpapers, furniture, rooms. Applied arts were considered lesser and, by tradition, feminine. At the beginning of the 20th century, when German critic Meier Graefe saw the works by the Scottish MacDonald Sisters, he exclaimed, disappointed: “In Glasgow English Art was no longer hermaphrodite but passed into the hands of women!”. From Sophie Tauber-Arp to Rosemarie Trockel and Miriam Schapiro, many female -and feminist- artists turned their attention to minor arts. Ornamentation thus gained an extra value, the power of questioning, through seriality and abstraction, the established history of art, generally dominated by (white) males. This history of art, more and more deconstructed during the last century, is based on masterpieces, as expression of a personal style, which are meant to be contemplated for eternity. That is true art, true expression. At the opposite, we find Natalya’s spaces, sometimes everyday spaces – a lift, a toilet, a garage – which prove the contrary: you can live with art, experience it, use it every day.
Natalya Hughes is based in Sydney. She works mainly in painting, digital media and installation. Her work has been exhibited in numerous group shows including Contemporary Australia: Women at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, An Imprecise Science at Artspace, Sydney and recently Patternation at Hazelhurst Gallery, Sutherland, New South Wales. Natalya completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane in 2001 and a PhD in Art Theory at the College of Fine Art (UNSW) in 2009. She is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane and currently teaches in Photography and Situated Media at UTS, Sydney.
Thanks to Nicholas Shearer for the installation photos.
Woody is curated by Sara D’Alessandro.