Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Here is a photo of two of the most recent artwork I have been developing. The photo lacks quality as they were taken on an old phone of mine...

The object is a muslin cast of a cardboard box. The drawings in the previous post demonstrate the technique further developed with drawings on the muslin pre casting

Here are two of the cast boxes stacked next to a pile of cardboard boxes - the image doesn't show a lot, except possibly the contrasting qualities of the of cast box to a 'normal' box.

The project has been difficult - aiming to develop a new work over 6 weeks (all the while in full time emplyoment) and 'in public'. As it happens the last six weeks have also been characterised by two insurance claims (one buildings and one car!) which are time consuming (and stressful) and the death of my boyfriend's grandmother (heartbreaking) amongst other things. Needless to say, progress has been slow.
Nevertheless, I know where I'm going with this project and thanks to the YMCA gained funding which allowed me to run a workshop at a New Hope Trust day centre. Totally exciting to involve participants in the making of this artwork.
Now I've to finish making the rest of the work and prepare it for exhibiting. As per usual, I'll have a number of components (the cast boxes) and as yet don't know how I want them to come together to form a whole. That will be a big decision.
In some ways, I feel that the progress I have made has been appropriate to the time frame. Having a 6 week 'deadline' (thank you NHT and Sophie Ronson for being flexi with that) has meant that I've developed a new work from start to (not quite) finish in a much shorter space of time than I ever have before.
It has been hard to reassure myself that progress has been (nearly) on track. I feel accountable and responsible to NHT/Mike Hewitt and Sophie to reassure them of the progress also and am feeling as though my communication on that front has probably be fairly stunted. I'm grateful to be working with understanding and positive people, to say the least.
Tomorrow and Thursday will be spent in the shop 'finishing off'. The hardest part is getting there...
...it's daunting!
Here are some drawings of what's been in my head.

More photos to follow - but this, I suppose, is the plan. I actually really like it as a 'drawing'...

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Here are some sketches of ideas for using the muslin casts of boxes and images re ideas

I'm really excited because I'm going to be running a work shop at a NHT day centre asking clients to participate in the production process as a way of telling their stories and experiences of home. I am hoping that various people will produce a box to symbolise home for them - rather than numbers on the building bricks, it will be stiched floor plans of home. The muslin cast boxes will then collectively form an installation which I am hoping to exhibit in Watford.

watch this space x


Here are some images as I continue to try to develop new work as Artist-in-Residence with NHT and the council.

I'm trying to cast boxes using muslin instead of brown parcel paper. Have previously used muslin with plaster to form a home made modrock but the muslin looses all it's qualities. Here I am trying to retain the transluscent qualities of the muslin - which brown parcel paper (which I have frequently 'cast' with) does not have.

It's not photographing very well on my camera phone, but I'm actually really pleased with how it's working. There are a few problems to resolve... like sealing up the end which I have to leave open to take the box out etc.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

first full day working with New Hope Trust

felt discouraged after today's work - but feel like it's never been more true that there can't be a victory without a battle - so i'm trying to master the discipline of taking on the battle rather....

quite hard, quite frustrating though -

Thursday, 4 November 2010

An Orchestra of Strings

Here are some pics of my artwork installed in An Orchestra of Strings, Crypt Gallery, Euston Road, London

Friday, 15 October 2010

Space 2 pop up with NHT

So ... some info and deets on the space and the project. The potential is overwhelming... but also oh so exciting.

and some photos of the space - you can see why it's so overwhelming. Because it isn't anything LIKE a white cube, there is a lot to take into consideration in terms of choosing to play up to (or not) the space etc. anyways... i'm relishing the challenging, but wish i had more time.

Working full time as an artist was really challenging, but for totally different reasons. NOT working full time as an artist I think is even harder... I simply don't have time and I'm watching so many opportunities slip by the by. I'm finding at the moment I have just enough time to stay on top of admin and emails (and even that not well) and no time to create...


anyways...photos of the space :)

Space²… pop up with New Hope Trust

A really exciting new project - I cannot wait to get my hands dirty. It's been a deep dream, for a long time, to find a practical and real link between my artwork and the deep compassion I have for issues related to homelessness -- and an opportunity has come my way.

Saturday November 6, 2010 10:00 AM - Saturday December 18, 2010 4:00 PM

A collaborative project with New Hope Trust in Watford and the local council.

The space is focused around the theme of textiles incorporating gallery, shop and workshops area under one roof.

Developing work that centres around themes of home and vulnerability, I will be occupying part of the space as artist-in-residence, forming a bridge between New Hope Trust and the gallery of artwork exhibited.

Opening date are from the Saturday 6 November – Saturday 18 December 2010Opening times will be: 10am-4pm Monday- Saturday

Queens Road, Watford. WD17 2QN


Here's hoping for a chance to 'give voice' to some really very real and very important heart issues...

Monday, 9 August 2010

Feeling a bit overwhelmed.

It's been quiet on here - because it's been quiet in my head too! It's nearly impossible for me to dip in and out of the creative process of my art practice and at the moment I'm 'out' and afraid to put a toe back 'in' until I have the best part of a week to think. Dangerous, perhaps - particularly since all the 'business' side doesn't draw to a simliar halt - so emails are still coming in and piling up.

I love art, but it intimidates me too.

I'm feeling totally overwhelmed at the moment. I'm sat in my beloved Zetland preparing to pack it all away. My first ever studio... it's nearly time to say goodbye. 'I walk away, it's hard to say goodbye'. I have no idea how to beginning moving out. I don't know what to do with it all. The nature of my practice is that nearly everything is precious because so much of my art is born out of mistakes. It's hard discard anything, incase it's the beginning of something.

I actually think moving out of Zetland is part of the creative development practice. It will invovle a series of decisions that will refine the art I produce - and maybe that is why it's a difficult thing to do. It's not just 'clearing out', it may infact be part of the production of my artwork which requires invested thought and time where each decision matters very much indeed.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Some amazing and breath taking buildings driving through the little villages in France. I'm going to do a drawing from them. Tongiht I'm going to IKEA for frames. Then I'm going to Watford Market to try and sell...

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

raaaa - an artwork in the bin!

The other day I was twitching about someone moving my art without asking me...

While I was away in Switzerland, a piece of work which was installed in an exhibition in a pub was thrown in the flipping BIN the morning before the opening of the exhibition!

Absolutely. gutted.

RIP, Ambon manise

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

our desires: not too strong, but too weak!

I’ve come across a chap who writes an interesting blog.

I struggle with my blog. I started to set up one (separate from my artist’s blog) as an alternative for musings which I’ve previously ‘published’ as Facebook notes. But, anyone who engages meaningfully with the artistic process knows that art and life are rarely (if ever) separate. It doesn’t feel natural to try to neatly compartmentalise them into separate blogs. And yet, it takes a while (if ever) for the relationship between art and life to become explicit and in the mean time I’m more than slightly worried that unedited, seemingly unconnected 'Processing' scattered across my artist’s blog will seem unprofessional and worse, irrelevant.

I’m not quite sure how to resolve that yet.

Anyway, back to this blog I’ve stumbled across. I found on it an interesting article that was a refreshing read and which I agree whole-heartedly with. Well articulated James Cary!

(Here is part of his post; the whole thing can be read at http://jamescary.blogspot.com/)

How Do I Know How I'm Doing?
There is a wonderful hymn that begins one verse with the line "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise." It's a great thing to sing, although the brevity and poetry hide a multitude of ambiguities. Should we really not heed wealth or the praise of men? Do these things really mean nothing to us?

The reason I pose the question is that I've been thinking about a question that's easily missed by the Christian who works in the arts and media - or indeed any field - is 'How do I know when I'm doing well?'

…And if I'm a Christian artist, film-maker or architect, what am I aiming to achieve, and how do I know when I've made it? It seems that a certain amount of riches and the praise of men is not an insignificant factor here.

Of course, some say that they perform for an audience of one - being God, obviously. That's true, and sounds great and godly. Well done. But God has given us all responsibilities, and our craft does not take place in a vacuum. God has given us a vocation and a desire to please him, and please him we must. But he has also given some of us spouses and children to provide for. Therefore, the work we do must not only be pleasing in God's sight, but commercially viable, lest our pursuit of excellence becomes a selfish vanity that causes hardship for others. We are not to be a burden to others but to work with our hands, making enough to be hospitable and generous.

We need to be mindful of our age and stage. When I was a young single man, clearly I had more creative freedom and was able to live on very little, having just been a student. Now I have to pay rent for a three bedroom house in London, and look after a wife, two children and a Ford Mondeo (no kidding). To piously assert that I am only interested in God's opinion of my work is a little disingenuous. Life is complicated - and that doesn't have to be a cop out to pursue wealth.

We can easily fall into the very British trap of assuming that all wealth is suspect and must have been acquired at some cost to someone somewhere. Either someone has been exploited or artistic values have been compromised and the artist in question has 'sold out'. But this misrepresents how wealth is portrayed in the Bible. Wealth is not suspect, but a blessing (eg to Job or Abraham). It is also a responsibility and a possible snare (eg. to the Rich Young Ruler). We must live open-handedly, but for those of us who are full-time creatives, our God-given crafts and skills must be put to use, and our God-given families must be supported. It is normal for these two to be linked, and therefore 'riches' need to be 'heeded' at some point.

…The main problem is that we compartmentalize and divide our lives into chunks and sections and set on off against the other.

Really I have very little to add to this. Thank goodness, though, for the ‘proviso’ –

“We need to be mindful of our age and stage. When I was a young single man, clearly I had more creative freedom and was able to live on very little, having just been a student”

- Otherwise I’m damned! When you are making money, it’s an easier article to write. But what if you don’t know how to chanel your talent to generate money, no one pays for what you do and you don’t know how to do much else.

My friend Tamara put this C.S.Lewis quote up on Facebook just this last week

"...it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak…”

For me it is an encouraging thought! I feel as though the desires of my heart are so strong they are utterly overwhelming and if I were to let them grow I'd explode. It's amazing to learn that Our Lord finds mine not too strong but too weak.

I’m going to 'up' my desires – to make money and to make art. In truth, it's not a new desire, but now I’m going to (try to) fearlessly release it with faith and a renewed confidence that Our Lord doesn’t find my desires overwhelmingly strong, as I do.

For the foreseeable future (forever?), this unlikely artist is dependant on God’s favour alone if there is any hope of living a non-compartmentalized sustainable creative life.

oh, sweet ambon

Look what I managed to do (upload this photo, from my phone, via facebook, download onto computer and then upload onto here! amazing)

In the name of not being able to compartmentalise art and life (ref post: our desires, to weak, not to strong) it is no coincidence that this weekend I have for the first time in years and years been re-united with friends who I grew up with in Ambon and who we were evacuated with from Ambon when the war broke out in 1999.

It was an emotional weekend for me - reconnecting with old friends and grieving 'lost' friendships and remembering an oh so rich childhood unlike anything the average British kid would experience growing up.

And so Monday morning, this development (ambon manise) of my brick work set root in the creative centre of my being and by Friday evening it will be open to the public in an art exhibition.

oh, sweet sweet fragile ambon!

Ambon Manise

My friend and 'colleague' Tim Stock is curating an exhibition based on Memories:

10 - 18 July 2010: "Recollections", Moseley Arts Trail, Mosely Festival 2010,

Prince of Wales, 118 Alcester Road,, Birmingham, B13 8EE

Here is what I'll be showing. Picture to follow soon of it in the space....

Friday, 2 July 2010


What's an girl meant to do...

One of the sixth formers wants to study art at uni, but also wants to have a job later on in life, so came to me for advise.

I'm getting pressure for a moving date. Technically I still have two months left in my flat and am paid until the end of August, but the pressure is deffinately on. It's a frustrating position to be in: well qualified, motivated, hard working and without a way of using my talent to make money.

Been trying to work out the compromises re getting jobs. Applications are out, so now my time is split between hunting for more 'jobs and opps' and waiting to see if I still have a magic touch filling in application forms.

So, with good qualifications and work experience in decent measure but with no home and no job in two months time and my precious creations making their way into cardboard boxes for storage (or will it have to all end up in the bin?) and a sweet but timid sixth former asking for career advise re being an artist... I felt a bit lost for words. What'a a girl meant to do?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Art's own currency

The process of creating an artwork is in part agonizing, the exhibiting of artwork thrilling and the dismantling of artwork from an exhibition painfully hard to bear.

A while back my sister Rachel and I were talking about the ‘currency’ of art. Artists invest time, money, energy and thought into creating works in a totally disproportionate amount to the time, money, energy and thought the work seems to generate. My artworks, at this early stage in my career, spend more time in boxes and scattered across the floor and walls of my studio that on view to be seen passing members of public. I’m not disappointed, by any stretch of the imagination, with my progress as an artist over the last two years. Nevertheless, even if I were to secure exhibitions every month, most of my work would still be tucked away in unseen corners of unoccupied spaces.

Yesterday I spent nearly 7 hours on trains and tubes journeying to Worcester and back to collect my artwork from the Worcester City Museum and Gallery. Just days ago the work was hung at eye level, carefully accounted for with a purpose built frame to create depth between the work and the wall and non-heat strip lights wired up to present the work in it’s best light (literally!). In contrast, yesterday the work say rather disappointingly on the floor, propped up against the wall with a dismantled frame next to it, looking out of place as the next show begun to take form around it. This two month show has been my longest exhibition yet but still it inevitably comes to an end and the work gets stowed away again.

To make matters worse, barely having recovered from carrying an old steel window (heavy!) on the train from Worcester to London (Mike met me off the train and got the window the rest of the way to South Ealing, legend)today I had to dismantle my exhibition Of no fixed abode’ from Watford Museum. Timings were never going to be easy. The timetabling at the gallery isn't set up for the large scale installations that I produce (and I'm so glad they didn't let that act as a deterrent to me exhibiting - all in all I found Sophie Ronson and the Museum staff totally and wonderfully accommodating!). My exhibition had to come down at the earliest today and the next show opens on Thursday evening. I assumed that I'd have today to dismantle the exhibition and the new exhibitors would be in on Wed and Thurs setting up...

But I was wrong. By the time I arrived at 1:30 (having finished work for the morning), the next exhibitors (from a local education institution) were already in installing student’s work around my artwork, even having moved some of my work out of the way. I said hello, but barely got a grunt in return. Perhaps they were unhappy with the inconvenience of working around an artist. Whatever it was, I wasn’t hugely comfortable with the situation.

I feel like I’m usually a fairly gracious person but the new exhibitors didn’t acknowledge my work as anything more than an inconvenience – to my mind, the ultimate disrespect. When one of them asked to start taking my wax bricks off the walls at one point I essentially said no, that it was too fragile and I would do it myself. Kelly (the events officer for Watford Council) and Lindsay (museum staff) were fabulous, however. Kelly I hadn’t met before but I felt instantly like she had an understanding of my objects as artworks and so was comfortable with her helping to dismantle the work which she did with due care and attention to detail. It would have been much sadder for me pulling apart the installation if I hadn’t been so guarded and therefore distracted by the new exhibitors.

In the end I was quite happy to get out of there as fast as possible – as my work came down and theirs went up, the space I’d grown so familiar with over the last month was quickly transformed into an unrecognizable space… and at that point I couldn’t get my work out of there fast enough.

Huge huge thanks go to Sophie Ronson and the Museum staff, however, for all their help, patience, understanding and respect for my work. The process of installing the exhibition, all the exhausting, was positive thanks to their willingness to 'take risks' and accomodate my ideas. I would happily work with them again.

All that was left:

Watford Observer


The local paper ran an article on my exhibition. I was going to scan it to put up on here. When it came out, a few hours before I was heading to catch a flight to Belfast for a friend's wedding, I scurried into town and bought up 5 copies. I knew I wanted a couple for my portfolio and thought that Tim Stock (curator for the exhibition) might want a copy for his. Then I was going to send one to mum and Dad and one to my grandparents - it's the sort of thing grandparents love, or so we all think.

Recently I've been struggling with how open and honest to be on a public blog. I'm not sure how to open up reasonable insight into the genuine peaks and troughs of being an artist without being transparent...so I suppose here goes.

I was disappointed with the article.

The article makes me feel a little misrepresented. For example, is it really fair to actually say I grew up in a war zone?

As I break the article down, it’s actually the bits about the evacuation that I really cringe to read. Maybe that’s no one’s fault – just the reality of a journalist trying to represent an intensely personal experience, based on one conversation, that is so far from the experience of most British citizens that it is impossible to represent if from the same perspective this third culture, missionary kid, teenager lived it.

It’s not true that I don’t remember feeling any trauma at the time of the evacuation – my response was in answer to a leading question! I only meant to say that you have to shift your perspective to that of a 13 year old who has spent her entire childhood in less than ‘stable’ political environment. Things that seem dramatic and shocking to the average British teenager were somewhat more commonplace to me and my three siblings and to our friends. But of course, we were all deeply upset driving through burnt out villages, where school staff live, in an armed escort en route to the airport and, waiting for the emergency flights to take us away, seeing smoke rising in pillars from the city centre.

It is probably true, however, that at least at first I didn’t feel that ‘displaced’ by our trip to Australia; perhaps that is what I meant by things ‘seeming dramatic’ to kids who grew up in the UK. We had little understanding or expectation at that point of the severity and longevity of the situation.

So, living as refugees in Australia didn’t “feel traumatic” in the sense that one might assume. We weren’t living without shelter or food and we weren’t injured or without medical attention when we needed it. I suppose the ‘trauma’ was subtle (our living conditions may have even improved, as refugees) that it feels like an untruth to call it so.

Watching CNN news each day to see if they featured the situation in Ambon, desperately hoping they didn’t, was difficult. We were told if no incidents occurred for a certain number of weeks then it would be deemed okay to go home. So we children watched the news each day, counting the days where Ambon wasn’t featured in the headlines. Each time Ambon was featured, we had to start counting from day 1 again. That was a ‘trauma’ I recall as it slowly dawned upon me that going home was being more and more unlikely.

The overwhelming mass of ‘orang barat’ (westerns) walking around probably threw us all (adults and children alike) into culture shock…but to a kid who lives between cultures and moves frequently, culture shock isn’t usually deemed ‘traumatic’ (though with retrospect, it probably is a kind of trauma).

*The hardest thing was leaving friends behind. You’ve somewhere to escape to and they don’t.”* - That feels like the truest thing in the article. Leaving neighbours and friends behind devastated me. I understood, even age 13, how ‘unfair’ that situation was. Furthermore, when you know your purpose (as a family) in a country is to serve the community in Jesus’ name, escaping the break out of war when others can’t is painful. To this day it makes me cry.

The rest of the article is fair actually – apart from the reference to Lancaster. I suppose yes I did ‘identify’ with a couple of the people in the homeless community, but I wouldn’t want that to be misrepresented as me having developed friendships and earned trust with them – it’s my dear friends Jess and JC who have done that.

For now, 5 copies of the article sit rather lamely on my dining room table. A copy hasn't been posted to either my parents or my grandparents. But perhaps the article is more fair than I first gave it credit for. In one sentence I’m quoted as calling the evacuation ‘not traumatic’ and the next living in Australia as a refugee as ‘traumatic’. Both comments left me feeling misrepresented. Maybe the whole thing was more unsettling that I like to admit and I’m confused by how to represent my experiences to people who, by no fault of their own, can’t relate. Perhaps the whole situation was deeply traumatic, but I feel a sense of guilt in admitting so, since we, the ‘orang barat’, were the fortunate escapees with other homes to flee to. What then of our friends left behind - who gives voice to their, much deeper, trauma? Perhaps I should.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Of no fixed abode - installation continued

Sorry if this is too many photos - better than too many words I feel.

The completed installation

Taken from inside looking out

boxes gallore - literally

Until today - drama struck! I went to the gallery to meet some school children to talk to them about my artwork, to find that the back wall had collapsed. I think I kept cool quite well, but I think it's fair to say I'm a little bit gutted.

No time to fix it now... but more than that, it seems to make sense to me. Here is the text I wrote, this afternoon, after finding it this morning:

The back wall of the installation where the artist has constructed a house from the wrappings of cardboard boxes has begun to collapse. The artist has allowed and embraced this as a natural progression of the installation.

The artwork began as an attempt to literally construct a house out of her experiences of constantly moving between houses; the hollow boxes acting as ghost-like echoes of each time the artist has moved house.

The collapsed back wall is a poignant reminder of just how fragile Hughes’ experience of home has been. It reflects a familiar struggle for the artist in trying to rebuild and reclaim lost homes.


Of no fixed abode

I ended up showing 6 different artworks in the show.

The most dominating was a large scale installation. Here are some pics of it from beginning to end (I need to dig out the drawings from when we were planning it too - they could be interesting).

This is the model I produced to run the proposal by the gallery and to help me visualise my idea. If I'd known how long the real thing was going to take, I would have spent less time on this model!

I thought I was doing well with production at this stage...how little I knew!

Wrapping boxes! A time consuming activity, so I discovered.

Getting this far took me to Saturday evening. The gallery was shut Sunday and Monday, and I was working in the mornings Tuesday and Wed and Thurs - which essentially left me with 3 afternoons to complete the installation. And so box making began in ernest, every hour or every day for the week that followed.

I would literally have not finished it without the help of friends, like Chris Sharpe, Jon Tan, Bob Wallington, my brother malcolm, YPF (the church youth group, more about that later) and of course, my boyfriend Mike Green.

For the best part of a week I literally missed I think every lunch, working straight through...

By wednesday night (less than 24 hours before the opening of the exhibtion)... I was still short boxes. That's when Wallo (youth group leader) and YPF (church youthgroup) came to my rescue like multiple nights in shining armour.

I'll have to get a pic from one of the lads - but what a heart warming sight: For an hour and a half on Wed evening, the youth group 'made boxes' for me. 41 they produced I think - and it turned out to be EXACTLY the number I was lacking. A good story... I feel.