UK artist Hush’s latest solo show, “Hymn to beauty” (teased), kicks off on March 5th at Carmichael Gallery in LA. In between finishing up the body of work and nabbing 6 hours sleep over 3 days, Hush welcomed AM to his studio to take a look at the work in progress, where we did a little interview with him. This and a chance to enter a giveaway contest for a set of signed Hush stickers after the jump…
Arrested Motion (AM): Good to meet you Hush, and many thanks for allowing us to invade your space just ahead of an upcoming show. I think the our readers will appreciate the sneak peak of the new work! Can you give us any insight into how you actually compose and create your pieces? Obviously there are a multitude of medias involved in your compositions, including the stencils and the screens, which obviously take a lot of preparation, and the tags in addition to the paint, which make up the many layers that go into one of your pieces. Do you create preliminary hand sketches, use photoshop, or is it all just there in your head waiting to flow out onto the wall or the canvas?
HUSH: It’s hard to actually explain it through words. I suppose the ultimate goal is to create something that would almost be a complex version of the street-work through the prelim sketches. I always can totally visualize the image before I create it, and then I suppose I use a lot of techniques to help us get as far as making the image look distressed, complicated and almost deconstructed from its original state through everything from tagging, throwing paint on the image to overlaying different mediums – it’s really complex how the work’s put together. I utilize nearly every way of placing paint onto a medium as is possible through screen print, paint, spray paint, acrylic, oils, inks and then also taking that off; removing it again and building the image up from scratch so that you get a different appearance. Each process allows it to look different. It’s about mark-making ultimately, and still having a composition built around that.
AM: How long does it take you to create the “average” (if there is such a thing) Hush piece?
HUSH: Well, I’d say an average time would be maybe a few weeks per piece, you know, from original sketch, but it can take even longer because it can’t be created just in a few days; it needs time just for the aging process. I almost treat it like a wall when I walk past a piece. It’ll end up making it look aged, or tagging it, or just throwing some paint on it without even looking just to see all those mistakes that add and give it its original status. So maybe anything from 40 to even 80 hours depending upon its complexity.
AM: You also seem to take a lot of time to create your editions with all of the hand finished work that goes into them. How do you see your future editions panning out? Is the plan to keep the numbers low and hand embellished, or go with larger editions to meet the demand?
HUSH: I may as well compromise myself because I contradict myself all the time anyway ha-ha! I would like to think that I will keep the editions very low. I want to almost make them more special. The only difficulty with that is allowing people to own the edition. You might have a little group of guys that are first introduced to your art, and you want to make things accessible to people all the time. Hand finished editions will always be very small. There might be the odd larger edition where you’re just making it more accessible to people, but ultimately if I release something with my name on it, I want it to have my mark on it and I can only justify selling things and putting a price on them if I’ve spent time making them. That’s why I’m not really into this large edition print thing, or I’ll end up fucking myself! I did “graf geisha” where I hand finished 80 prints – you’re working for a lifetime!
AM: How long did it take to crank that edition out then?
HUSH: Well just in the making of those, probably about 2 weeks. But when you think you’ve already actually spent time and made the image before, that’s just the finishing process, but you want to do it to put out some quality pieces.
AM: You were named in the Independent’s 20 best up and coming artists list of 2008 late-on last year. I’m wondering if this has led to a greater acceptance from the mainstream art and gallery world for your work? Did the exposure bring in any inquiries from galleries that you wouldn’t have necessarily thought you would deal with?
HUSH: It did bring some attention, but I kind of knew what I was doing this year already. At the end of the day, its maybe one person’s view. I appreciate that type of thing being published, but I don’t necessarily act on it or take any notice of it really. It’s a hard one, but when I first saw it I thought it was a piss-take, because it is a bit ridiculous – how do you name the top 20 artists?
AM: It was almost like a “ones to watch” list I suppose, wasn’t it?
HUSH: Yeah, it was ones to watch, but there should be a million names in there. It’s always awkward, that type of thing. I feel a bit embarrassed by it actually (laughs). For me it feels like you’re leaving yourself open, because it’s not real. Like I said, there’s a million other people – so how can they say you’ve made it, but not just that – how can they justify it? Is it publicity? Monetary value? Is it quality of work?
AM: Yeah, I think lists like than can be somewhat dangerous.
HUSH: Oh yeah. Ok, it’s in print, its good as far as galleries go – they see it and pick up on it and say look at this, look what he’s doing. Some of the private collectors too. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who may see it as “look who I’ve got on my wall” he was mentioned as a top 20 artist in the Independent or whatever.
AM: There does seem to be a lot of bandwagoning, with people jumping on the next big thing.
HUSH: Oh yeah, especially in this scene, so it’s definitely something that you can’t get too excited about or take too seriously.
AM: I find that there are a lot of people buying art for all the wrong reasons, without fully understanding or even loving the art that they buy, especially when it comes to editions.
HUSH: I could never ever buy something just because it’s the “new thing” or just because other people have bought it. Really the chances of long term investment, and actually making any money off any artist is pretty impossible really, so you’ve got to spend that money because of love for the work. If you look at people like Rotella, when you think you can buy a piece of his, like a limited version of one of the works he made for £40,000 or a modern artist in the same price range it isn’t any near as relevant or important as the work these guys made.
AM: What was the story with the street piece that you put up in London recently that was painted over almost immediately? I heard that it was covered due to complaints from local residents? I can’t see how it was any more offensive than the multitude of other images out there in our everyday lives.
HUSH: Well, when I was sticking it up there I did get a few comments as guys were walking by. I think in hindsight, it’s a predominantly Muslim area, so that community could get offended by nudity – even though it was censored, almost to European tastes, I would imagine. Everyone’s got their own view, if that offended anyone and they wanted it taken down, I’ll take it down. I’m not that precious about it. It’s meant to be there as long as it lasts. I don’t want to go offending people, so fair dos.
AM: Hush has become a big name during 2008. The “De-sensitized” show at Opus Art was eagerly anticipated by many followers of the urban contemporary scene. I’m presuming that the title of your last body of work “De-sensitized” alludes to the fact that we are surrounded by an apathetic society riddled with violence, crime and grime. The upcoming show at Carmichael Gallery is called “Hymn to beauty.” It’s certainly a more alluring title than the brashness of “De-sensitized”. What sort of theme can be expected for the works at the show?
HUSH: Beautiful girls to start with! Alluring eyes. A lot of symbolism. The whole show is based around a group of poems by Charles Baudelaire – “Les Fleures de mal”, in particular “Hymn of beauty”, which for me was about the dark side and the good side of women. It uses a lot of symbolism for what the eyes of women can portray. I’ve also added onto that the use of symbols that represent women and female beauty, creating my own story out of that poem.
AM: Do you have plans to be out in LA for the opening? Any plans to put up some outdoor pieces whilst there?
HUSH: Yeah, I’m going out for the show. I’m doing a few street pieces hopefully and also doing a huge installation in the gallery itself. I think it’s important that if you are doing a solo show that you make the space work in its own right rather than just sending the work over there. I like to make an effort and make it something special, but yeah, I’ll certainly be out there doing some work on the street as well.
AM: Will there be any prints or editions created for the “hymn to beauty” show?
HUSH: No. There won’t be any prints. I’m only doing a small amount of large original paintings for this show. I am going to be doing a “works on paper” show with Upper Playground later in the year to make the work more accessible to people who can’t necessarily spend a certain amount of money on paintings.
AM: You’ve a book coming out pretty soon via Thames and Hudson. It must be pretty exciting to have a monograph in the works. Can you give us any details about the book’s release?
HUSH: The Thames and Hudson book is a sketchbook that’s being released for their 60th anniversary. It’s a quality product. It’ll have 192 pages of watercolour paper in it. 32 images of my work, unpublished photographs of street work, pencil sketches of pieces I’ve painted in the past. You know, it was a nice compliment that Thames and Hudson asked, and King Adz has produced the book.
AM: Who provides the inspiration for your work, be it artists or other? Do you like to use music when you are working for getting in the zone?
HUSH: I’m influenced by every person in the scene. Probably every artist, past and future! Definitely music has an influence on my work, coming from that whole dance music, electro, hip hop scene, it just makes the work more relevant and seems to make sense in the way that it compliments the work – even in the way that it doesn’t take itself too seriously as well.
AM: Does your location in Newcastle provide any particular inspiration for your work? There seems to be a good art scene up here presently.
HUSH: I think the edginess of the city provides some kind of inspiration. The people are cool. Liberal. Some of the best people in this country. But, I get huge inspiration from London and the traveling I do. Seems like the majority of time these days I just get about and travel and that’s one of the biggest inspirations ever. Because you’re meeting different communities, different people, different aspects of life. But it’s always good to get down to the grimy city – it’s city life that inspires more than anything. For me the best thing about Newcastle is it’s a good place to work because you can kind of disassociate yourself – it’s big enough to get lost. With the capital city you get your little cliques, influences and distractions. That’s why I’ll always stay in Newcastle as a base because its easier for me to work
AM: Thanks for your time Hush and we look forward to seeing your show. For our readers, we are giving away a set of signed stickers courtesy of Hush. For more details, click here.
Hymn to Beauty
March 5th – 26th 2009
Carmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art
1257 N. La Brea Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90038