Photo: James Caswell
Natalya Hughes' multidisciplinary practice is concerned with decorative and ornamental traditions and their associations with the feminine, the body and excess. Through painting, textiles, sculpture and installation, her recent bodies of work investigate the relationship between Modernist painters and their anonymous women subjects. Using the life and work of major 20th century male artists, Willem de Kooning and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, as well archival case studies of Sigmund Freud, Hughes seeks to examine society’s ‘problems’ with women and the fraught associations that have ultimately determined them.
‘I was never enthralled by that thick, expressionist painting style in the same way that other people seem to be; I’ve always been a very flat, neat painter…I was drawn to [de Kooning and Kirchner] not because they have a decorative aesthetic ... [but] because I wondered what would happen if I brought that aesthetic to [the same subject]. Those artists would have loathed me to do that, I’m sure.’
Hughes was awarded the 2022 Michaela and Adrian Fini Fellowship by the Sheila Foundation that has supported her in creating a body of new work for her solo exhibition The Interior at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA). In 2019, she completed the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Open Studio residency. Hughes is the second of five contemporary Australian artists to feature at Open Studio. Following these respective experiences, Hughes presents her second solo show These Girls of the Studio with Sullivan+Strumpf in September 2022.
Her work was recently included in the major group exhibition Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now (Part 2) at the National Gallery of Australia (2021-22), as well as in other institutional shows at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (2019, 2017 and 2012), QUT Art Museum Brisbane (2016), Artspace Sydney (2016), Hazelhurst Regional Gallery (2015), Performance Space (2012), Parliament House Canberra (2014), UQ Art Museum, Brisbane (2010), Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2009) and Tarrawarra Museum of Art, VIC (2006). Hughes was a finalist in the 2022 and 2018 Sir John Sulman Prize at Art Gallery of NSW, the National Works on Paper Prize at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery in 2018, and the 2017 Ramsay Art Prize at Art Gallery of South Australia. Hughes completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane in 2001 and a PhD in Art Theory at the College of Fine Art (UNSW) in 2009. She currently lives in Brisbane and lectures in Fine Art and Expanded Practice at the Queensland College of Art.download pdf