Kez Hughes interview | The Full Picture @ Chapter House Lane

Kez Hughes, Peter Atkins, Painting and Drawing, Greenaway Art Gallery 2011, 2013
Courtesy the artist

Kez Hughes paints paintings of photos of paintings. 

She finds documentation of an art exhibition that would make a good subject for a painting, and sets about transforming the copy into a painting (and in the process creating another copy). She might turn a photo of a sculpture into a painting, or turn a photo of a painting back into a painting. When I suggest it’s a bit ‘meta’, ‘death of the author’ and all that, Hughes laughs and says she can’t help herself. She is, afterall, a child of VCA.

“The way that I find the imagery is of our time,” says Hughes. She doesn’t paint from memory, she doesn't paint the actual exhibition. Instead Hughes finds photos in catalogues or online and paints those. “I’m not working from the original artwork, I’m working from a screen or a print out of a photograph. So it’s really, really removed.” 

Hence the results are never quite right. Often when the original artists get to see Hughes’ version, they point out that she got a colour wrong or missed some other detail. She painted one only to find out later that her version was drastically bigger than the original.

Most artists, she says, are really open about what it feels like to have their work, in a sense, become somebody else’s. “A lot of people are freaked out when they’re standing in front of the work. They know it’s theirs but it’s no longer theirs. They have this connection/disconnection, and that’s really interesting.”

Appropriation, authorship, authenticity and their value (economic and cultural); these are all key to Hughes’ work. But if you focus on the postmodern themes too much you miss some of the other factors at play.

From what I can tell, one of the main reasons Hughes makes the work she does is out of sheer, nutty enthusiasm for painting: the history, the craft, the temperamental materials, the likelihood that you’re not going to be any good at it until you’re in your sixties.

“There’s something really beautiful about looking at an image or a landscape or whatever, and thinking how am I going to replicate that with this coloured mud. It’s the greatest feeling if you get it right.”

>> Maura Edmond

Kez Hughes, Simon Pericich and Nicki Wynnychuk, A Better Place 2009, 2013
Courtesy the artist

Kez Hughes, Dane Lovett, Forking in the River of Time, Sullivan and Strumpf 2012 , 2013
Courtesy the artist

Kez Hughes, The Full Picture, 2013 (install)
Photograph: Maura Edmond

Kez Hughes, The Full Picture, 2013 (install)
Photograph: Maura Edmond

Kez Hughes, The Full Picture, 2013 (install)
Photograph: Maura Edmond



Kez Hughes
The Full Picture
5 - 29 September, 2013
Chapter House Lane
(next to St. Paul's Cathedral)