Michael McHugh

For more than three decades, Michael McHugh has been exploring the vase potential of colour, composition and abstract form with an inquisitive emphasis on the natural world. McHugh collects a range of different photographs and drawings during research trips to museums, libraries and gardens around the world, returning to his Sydney-based studio to draw and create collages as studies for large format paintings. His latest series, ‘Exotics’, is a celebration of plant forms, some fictionalised from the artist’s imagination. Abstracted botanical shapes rendered with a psychedelic palette pushes boundaries of colour, drawing the viewer into a dizzying kaleidoscope. Informed by research at both London’s Royal Horticulture Society Library and Sydney’s Botanical Gardens at the Daniel Solander Library, the artist was fascinated by the varied interpretations different botanists had made of plant species, discovering a ‘new world’ of flora and fauna; ‘giving me license to create my own botanical language.’

Drawing and collaging under pin, the paintings document vivacious hybrids of extinct botanical species, contemporary and invented plant forms. At times the resemble anemone forms, swaying in the ocean current, while other moments evoke vast constellations in the night sky. Enlarged petri-dish shapes float across the surfaces of the paintings like amplified microorganisms, fusing the macro with the micro in a dazzling celebration of the natural world. ‘I want these paintings to bring the viewer joy, to smile’, says McHugh, ‘To forget everything else that’s happening … for a moment, let’s just be happy.’

Michael McHugh: Exotics
17 September – 11 October 2020
Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney

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