The Visitors arrive in Courtenay Place

23 July 2015

A strange group of visitors will arrive in Courtenay Place in August. The Visitors is the latest exhibition to be installed in the Courtenay Place Park light boxes. British artist Des Hughes has created new work especially for the light boxes, transforming quasi-humanoid sculptures into photographic form.

Des Hughes says he hopes the series of monolithic figures create a feeling of movement or animation along the street.

“It also might appear that they have just dropped out of the air or have been teleported down. The facial expressions range from startled through to curious and sometimes slightly cross but are never malevolent. I would hope that a viewer might feel the same way – to stop and wonder who they are and why they are here but in the end grow to accept their differences.”

The photographs will merge with the light boxes, using the casings to form part of the work. The images, in conjunction with the light boxes, will appear as solidly embodied figures standing on the street.

To make the sculptures, Hughes used sheets of wool cut from jerseys to create individual faces and bodies. He then stiffened the wool and cast it into a resin, fibreglass and iron powder mix that was rusted and fettled. The work was then carefully photographed and the sculptures sent in digital form from the UK where Hughes is currently living.

“Something that might have been knitted yesterday is transformed into something that might have been buried for hundreds of years. This process encourages the surface to change and allows the potential for many possible outcomes.”

The curator of The Visitors, Katharine Allard, first saw Hughes' work when she encountered his Angry Pins at Frieze Art Fair Sculpture Park in London. Hughes had transformed some of his tiny brass pin works by playfully recreating them at large scale, several meters high.

Allard says, “Des' work has a huge amount of presence and plays horror against humour, attitude against futility, the uncanny against the banal.”

Des Hughes is a British artist whose work has been exhibited in group shows at the Saatchi Gallery, Tate Britain, Camden Arts Centre, and the Henry Moore Institute, among other places in the UK, across Europe, in the US, and in New Zealand at Hamish McKay Gallery. Recent public art works include Thems Please for Measure in 2011, Do You Think of Me Often, Sculpture for Dogs, part of House of Beasts at the National Trust's Attingham Park 2012. He has a solo show opening at The Hepworth Wakefield in September 2015. Hughes lives in Herefordshire and is represented by Ancient and Modern, London.

UK born and Dunedin based curator and arts producer Katharine Allard holds a Masters of Fine Arts (Hons) from Massey University. Her previous projects include directing The Art Box Project a series of 10 temporary public artworks (Wellington) and managing artist Gabby O’Connor’s large paper iceberg sculpture What Lies Beneath for a theatre foyer in Oxford, England.  

Katharine Allard has curated The Visitors in association with Measure (London).

The exhibition runs from August to December 2015 in the Courtenay Place Park light boxes.