The Keeper of Heads, Des Hughes’s inaugural solo exhibition for the Martin Asbæk gallery, bears testament to the intrinsic fascination that the British sculptor harbours for everyday objects and materials.
Almost nothing is ever quite what it first appears to be, thanks to Hughes’s remarkable ability to manipulate his chosen materials – each piece of work an optical illusion to the untrained eye. Look closer and the source objects slowly present themselves – a stack of vegetables, cast in brass resin, bears the sublime markings from the skin of a gala melon, the segments of a squash. The desire to touch the work is nigh on irresistible.
A cacophony of heads forms the theme of the show, yet, according to Hughes, the head is almost irrelevant. ‘In some cases, the image is the most important thing; I’ll have a clear picture of how I want the finished sculpture to look and, in the case of The Loosing End, I made the work very quickly and achieved the intended result. Yet, with, Good Boy, the process was of far greater importance to me. I became obsessed with the idea of positive and negative spaces inside the head, and I needed to keep revisiting the mould and reworking the materials until I felt that I’d exhausted all avenues of possibility. That process is equally as important to me as the final sculpture.’
Complimenting Hughes’s sculptures are the artist’s antique silk embroideries. A wry 20th century interpretation of the traditional Georgian gentleman’s needlework, Hughes presents popular objects and phrases, including a pair of Calvin Klein briefs, in traditional cross-stitch.
Des Hughes was born in 1970 in Birmingham and studied at Goldsmith’s London. Exhibitions include: Stretch Out and Wait, The Hepworth Wakefield. XXX, Bruce Haines, Mayfair, London. Everything’s Inevitable, Manchester Art Gallery, UK. Royal Academy Summer Show, London. Body and Void, Henry Moore Foundation, UK. Never the Same River, Camden Arts Centre, London. Newspeak, British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, London. Beating the Bounds, Tate Britain, London.
The artist has works in the collections of Arts Council Collection, UK, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK, Saatchi Collection, London, UK, The David Roberts Foundation, UK and Private Collections in the US, Canada, Denmark, Italy, France and Germany.