Michael McHugh’s exhibition SUPERNATURAL

Michael McHugh’s exhibition SUPERNATURAL
Artist Michael McHugh’s work is both fantastical and yet familiar; highly imaginative and yet rooted in reality. With nature as the inspiration, his latest exhibition is gloriously bold, yet the works are both detailed and intricate.

Sydney’s re-entry into lockdown earlier this year meant quiet self-contemplation for the artist, and an opportunity to create work from his imagination that celebrated the beauty of nature. Hence the name of his latest show, SUPERNATURAL. The work itself is about the cellular formation of plant forms and the re-ordering and twisting of DNA, while creating layers of patterns and colour. At times, some shapes clash with others completely unnaturally, while other plant forms offer moments of stillness within the canvas.

Michael McHugh Ensemble, 2021 Acrylic on canvas 

Artist Michael McHugh says it’s been a time of deep reflection while painting his latest works, during which time his mind would often wander to the unexpected nature of life. “In March of this year, my brother tragically passed away unexpectedly and so my studio and this collection of work became my refuge. Every time I arrived at the studio, I was able to lose myself in the work, being left alone to create and consider the fragility of life and nature. The lack of noise and people around me meant I had a focus that was pure and at times, intense,” he says.

Michael McHugh Celestial, 2021 Acrylic on canvas

When lockdown lifted in early 2021, McHugh visited the State Library of New South Wales to research historical plant forms from botanists and illustrators. He also travelled to Perth’s King Park and Botanic Gardens, which has the largest range of wildflowers in the country. This research was the starting point for the exhibition’s body of work, as he spent time drawing extensively, creating new forms. “I developed my own ‘plant DNA language’ with cellular structures and shapes that became the starting point for composing each painting,” says McHugh. The colour palette for most of the works come from collages McHugh makes from mixing unused paint onto baking paper. They then are cut out and shapes are formed with random colours, both layered and patterned, which are then developed holistically across the collection. “I want the viewer’s eye to travel around the canvas, seeing new details each time they view a painting. Some paintings are complex and completely filled with colour and detail; others are singular in their colour palette and have more resting areas within the work for the viewer.”

Michael McHugh Soiree, 2021 Acrylic on canvas

There is a wonder to nature that can be exhilarating, McHugh says. “SUPERNATURAL celebrates the idea of nature from my imagination – giving the viewer permission to experience a moment in time that might change their outlook.” The viewer brings to the experience their own perceptions as they view the painting. “Losing yourself in a world of form and colour, and perhaps to even celebrate the wonder of life itself, is a wondrous thing.”

Artist Michael McHugh.

Martin Browne Contemporary, Paddington

16 September – 10 October, 2021

Michael McHugh Nocturnal, 2021 Acrylic on canvas

Photography by Jenni Carter.



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