David Hughes New Solo Show

23 February 2024

The inimitable David Hughes, illustrator, artist, author, has been setting the bar for satirical drawing, often on themes of war, politics and social crisis, since the mid seventies. Peppered with a commercial career working for advertising agencies and a mouth-watering array of editorial and publishing institutions, he also creates sculptures, writes books and has contributed to film and operatic productions.

With an exhibition title certain to entertain anyone familiar with David's output Why Can’t You Draw Something Nice…? explores the many facets of Davids work, both two and three dimensional, across 170 pieces - many of which have never been publicly displayed before. This was very much a co-curated show, taking shape organically through numerous visits to David’s studio by the team at Moyse’s Hall, in particular Dan Clarke.

From the museum’s perspective this was an opportunity to celebrate the great breadth of David’s art both in scope and shifts in style and offer the public a chance to explore a very special body of work. In an exhausting process for both David and Dan, they pretty much deconstructed the artist's studio and recreated a certain essence of it at the museum.

“It was all very out of the blue” says David, “Dan and Lance visited the studio and from the moment they walked in decided they had to try and transport that experience into the museum as faithfully as they practically could.” No small task given that David describes his workspace as "a tip, a state of chaos". They stopped short of stripping it of its furniture but over a series of visits created an edit of David’s work that he found quite unexpected. It was a conversational approach that was unfamiliar to David, at once being very present and hands-on during the curatorial process, while simultaneously allowing Dan to take the reins and create a selection that David might not have considered himself.

Much of his work has been exhibited before, much of it is in the private ownership of collectors. “We weren’t about to start asking people to loan work back to us for the show so the edit that Dan arrived at represents an entirely fresh perspective that hopes to reach a new contemporary audience”.

David draws every day, leaves a trail of pencil stubs wherever he goes and takes inspiration from his wanderings and commissions. In 1989 he created a piece titled Sea Sick for a calendar commissioned by The Chase called The Art Of Recycling. He became obsessed with collecting seabird corpses on Formby Beach. Knowing David to the extent that we do this doesn’t strike us as strange! He’s not from a particularly creative family if you look directly to his parents and siblings, but there are a few performers in his broader family and he was influenced by the late Stan Smith when he was studying at Twickenham College of Technology: “He was a great painter, draughtsman and illustrator, but it wasn’t that he taught me anything as far as illustration was concerned, he was a bon viveur, it was his charm, his influence that struck me. I wanted to be like that.” (He is.)

It strikes David now that the key to arriving at his established approach to working, his own visual language, was when he stopped himself in 1988 and went back to the beginning, to what he was starting to do in 1971 but failed to achieve when he left college in ’72. “To be yourself. To be honest. It took 16 years to get back to that.”

Why Can’t You Draw Something Nice…? Is on at Moyse’s Hall Museum until 12th May and you can see an interview with him here, by kind permission of Glenn Pickering. David's folio can be viewed here.

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