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Galerie Eva Presenhuber is pleased to present Return of Light, the gallery’s fourth solo exhibition with the New York-based artist Shara Hughes.

Shara Hughes’ landscape paintings possess an unnerving beauty. Bright, vividly colored, and teeming with plant life, a sun presiding over the sky like some threatening planet, bringing to mind the menacing star in Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic Melancholia. Simultaneously seductive and demonic, it draws our gaze in. Not a single spot on these paintings is left blank—we dive into a botanical horror vacui, its intensity reminiscent of the expressive psychedelic landscapes of Vincent van Gogh, Charles Burchfield, and Peter Doig, as well as the color-soaked images of nature by the artists group Der Blaue Reiter.

In the history of art, landscape as a genre has traditionally been dominated by men. Hughes, however, paints like those predecessors never existed. The intoxicating romanticism of her work has no immediate references: neither the Expressionists’ industrialization-driven flight to the countryside, Burchfield’s transcendental occultism, nor Doig’s pop-culture allusions. Though Hughes plays with the age-old clichés of wall calendars and Sunday painters—sunsets and flowers, forests and blossoms—her paintings do not add any ironic distance. Instead, her compositions somehow classically yet clandestinely turn landscapes into portraits of the soul, images blending light and shadow. Her colors’ intensity, which at first glance could suggest these paintings are altogether harmless, is deceptive. What grows and jostles here—almost bursting out of the frame—are metaphors for inner states that reveal more about ourselves than the landscapes, which, after all, are only imagined. The paintings’ elements clash and clash again, never exactly fitting together, sometimes sharply contoured, other times almost collaged, so that the whole tends towards abstraction and at times radiates a hippie airbrush aesthetic: abstract brushstrokes encircle a waterfall; dark-colored dots transform into stormy skies; broad-contoured beams enfold a sun and clouds as if we were suddenly leafing through a picture book. It is unnerving moments such as these that reveal the stylistic range of Hughes’ painting—at the same time showing how this versatility helps her create compositions that completely cohere, moods that leave a mark.

By combining historical styles and familiar associations, Hughes takes landscape painting to a new level, creating immersive wholes in which pain and beauty merge. Going beyond kitsch and cliché, she plays with precisely those parameters and draws our gaze into the darkness behind fireballs and sunbeams, behind tree trunks, flower petals, and bodies of water, right into the apocalypse transpiring amidst this magnificent natural spectacle. Hughes’ paintings have an air of the end of days. As alluring auguries of death, they capture our gaze and become symbols of a time in which landscapes are never harmless, the sun never just beautiful, and water never simply clean. What we see are scenarios that mirror our utmost desires and at the same time blot them out. There is something sinister in Hughes’ pictures—they sing like a seductive abyss. Whether we fall in or not remains unknown.

VoW

VoW

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

Installation view, Shara Hughes, Return of Light, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2021

BE BOLD
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE47800
 

CENTERING AND STRENGTHENING
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE47798

INTO FRUITION
2020
Oil and acrylic on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE47801

ON THE RISE
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE48157

SUN CHILLS
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE48275

THE GLEAMING
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE48274

HEART THROB
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
198 x 167.5 cm / 78 x 66 inches
HUGHE47802
 

STEMS FROM THE CENTER
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
198 x 167.5 cm / 78 x 66 inches
HUGHE47804

TUCK
2021
Oil and arcylic on canvas
203 x 167.5 cm / 80 x 66 inches
HUGHE47805
 

SIGH
2020
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
172.5 x 152.5 cm / 68 x 60 inches
HUGHE47806

RISE AND SHINE
2020
Oil and acrylic on canvas
172.5 x 152.5 cm / 68 x 60 inches
HUGHE47807

CAN'T HIDE
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
122 x 101.5 cm / 48 x 40 inches
HUGHE48278

CRACK OF DAWN
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
122 x 101.5 cm / 48 x 40 inches
HUGHE48362

BE BOLD
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE47800
 

CENTERING AND STRENGTHENING
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE47798

INTO FRUITION
2020
Oil and acrylic on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE47801

ON THE RISE
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE48157

SUN CHILLS
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE48275

THE GLEAMING
2021
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 inches
HUGHE48274

HEART THROB
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
198 x 167.5 cm / 78 x 66 inches
HUGHE47802
 

STEMS FROM THE CENTER
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
198 x 167.5 cm / 78 x 66 inches
HUGHE47804

TUCK
2021
Oil and arcylic on canvas
203 x 167.5 cm / 80 x 66 inches
HUGHE47805
 

SIGH
2020
Oil, acrylic and dye on canvas
172.5 x 152.5 cm / 68 x 60 inches
HUGHE47806

RISE AND SHINE
2020
Oil and acrylic on canvas
172.5 x 152.5 cm / 68 x 60 inches
HUGHE47807

CAN'T HIDE
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
122 x 101.5 cm / 48 x 40 inches
HUGHE48278

CRACK OF DAWN
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
122 x 101.5 cm / 48 x 40 inches
HUGHE48362

THE LAST
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE48276

SHY
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47815

BRIGHT LIGHT
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47814

SUN RIPPLE
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47813

KEEP IT IN
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47811

THE LAST
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE48276

SHY
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47815

BRIGHT LIGHT
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47814

SUN RIPPLE
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47813

KEEP IT IN
2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
35.5 x 28 cm / 14 x 11 inches
HUGHE47811

CURRENT MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS

Garden Museum

GARDEN MUSEUM 

Shara Hughes

May 17 - June 5, 2021

Additional information here

Consortium

CONSORTIUM MUSEUM 

Shara Hughes - Pivot

May 19 - June 20, 2021

Additional information here

FORTHCOMING PUBLICATION

Book information

SHARA HUGHES
Published by Galerie Eva Presenhuber and DCV Books

Texts by Gesine Borcherdt and Eric Troncy
Interviews by Barry Schwabsky and Isabelle Graw

Summer 2021

Biography

© Blaine Davis Studio

Shara Hughes was born in 1981 in Atlanta, GA, US, and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, US. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and later attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Hughes is currently the subject of solo exhibitions at the Garden Museum, London, UK, and Le Consortium, Dijon, FR, and a major solo presentation at the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, CN, is planned for November this year. Recent solo exhibitions include The Arts Club, London, UK (2018); the Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI, US (2018); Gallery Met at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, NY, US (2018); and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta, GA, US (2014). Hughes has participated in numerous group exhibitions at venues including Dallas Art Museum, Dallas, TX, US; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY, US; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ, US; MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, US; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, US. Hughes was also included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, US.

Hughes’ work belongs to many prominent museum collections including the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, US; the Denver Museum of Art, Denver, CO, US; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, FR; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, US; the Jorge M. Perez Collection, Miami, FL, US; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, US; the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta, GA, US; the M Woods Museum, Beijing, CN; the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ, US; the Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, TX, US; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO, US; the Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing, CN; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., US; the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY, US; and the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, CN.