Sara Hughes’ painting practice can be characterized by an on-going fascination with the effects of pattern, structure, colour and optics on our understanding of the world. For her latest exhibition, Harvest, Hughes brings together a series of works that utilize different materials and surfaces to create an installation that is typically Hughesean - brightly coloured, dynamic, and meticulously executed.
Borrowing from the language of diagrams and data graphics, groups of paintings in the form of pie charts or line graphs appear as clusters on the gallery walls; a body of new work uses painted steels pins to create intricate patterns; while a sculptural element, a three dimensional segmented pie chart seat anchors the installation in the gallery space.
Broadly speaking, the works in Harvest focus on one of two specific enquiries. As in her earlier exhibition Colour Codes (Gow Langsford Gallery, 2010), some works refer to Hughes’ in-depth analysis of the way in colour is used by financial institutions and in financial reporting. While other works interpret statistics relating to wheat production as a metaphor for the politics and the economic structures that affect the way food is grown and globally traded. By extension Hughes’ investigation considers food, its production, its consumption, its economics and the political aspects of subsidies, tariffs and embargos that affect it.
Hughes’ dedication to her processes is evident in her immaculately finished and highly detailed works. In one piece more than 35,000 stainless steel pins (each hand dipped in layers of coloured paint) are fixed into a complex grid. The overall result is an intricate design that utilizes contrasting dots of colours like a Pointillist painting; at a distance it reveals both its pattern of stems of grain as well its reference to the politics of the wheat trade.
The information drawn upon for the works in Harvest, references an eclectic mixture of carefully chosen figures and facts. Although integral to the conception of the works Hughes sees her choice of data operating like schemas for thinking and it is her aim that the work oscillates between artwork becoming the information and the information becomes the artwork.
Harvest, like all of Hughes’ works operate on the edge of aesthetics and concept. At once captivating visually, they oscillate between multifarious layers of meaning and possibilities of interpretation.