Hughes is among the most accomplished mid-career painters operating in New Zealand today. - Julian McKinnon, Art News Winter 2017
These new paintings have developed out of an intense three year period working on my largest public art project to date for the New Zealand International Convention Centre. A work on 550 glass panels that covers 2400 sq m. Thinking of what it means to be from this land and of this place challenged my thinking and pushed me into new territory. It made me delve back into my past, to remember my childhood growing up in the far north of New Zealand. It was the overwhelming sense of light and colour that was imprinted on my memory. I have clear recollections of the enormity of the bush when I was young and collecting as many types of green leaves and foliage as I could. I would try to catalogue them but when I came back the next day they had faded and changed so I would start again.
8 Minutes and 17 Seconds is the time it takes light to travel from the sun to the earth’s surface. I recall as a child wanting to know where light came from and trying to resist the urge not to look at the sun - along with the first time I realized that without light there is no colour. These new works meld personal experience with science and environmental urgency. I combine materials and ways of painting - fast and slow to echo the passing of a day. Built up with layer over layer of transparent glaze these works attempt to capture light and making visible its flow of photons.
I paint to create connection emotionally and intellectually. The physical engagement of the arm and the immediacy of the colour are richly satisfying. I think there is a need for that to come out of the body. I see that with my sons when they paint. Place and location have always been important in my practice, I often create work for specific sites and imagine how they will be viewed and experienced. In these works I cast my mind back to early experiences of place. Painted on portrait shaped canvases these works are as much autobiographical as they are derived from the landscape.
Colour is important to my work as it continually asks me to evaluate its relationship between the emotional and the rational and the scientific and the magical – its multiplicity gives me much to work with. For centuries, painters have tried to capture the elusive effects of light in their canvases. For the past three years I have been working on glass with light and colour - I want the paintings to capture these enigmatic qualities.
I have a busy year ahead completing the installation of my New Zealand International Convention Centre work and creating a new installation for the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
Sara Hughes, May 2019