The Golden Bough: Ronnie Hughes
05 August 2010

Curated by Michael Dempsey
The motives behind the Golden Bough myth have operated widely, perhaps universally, in human society, producing in varied circumstances, a variety of institutions, specifically different but generically alike. The crowned heads of each successive generation of [artists] lays uneasy. The least relaxation of their stance, the smallest abatement of their strength of argument or skill of fence, puts them in jeopardy of losing their position in the canon of art history.
Such is the rule of the sanctuary. A striking resemblance to the hegemony of eurocentric art history rhetoric from which the question arises - How does the emerging avant garde (if we can still use this term..?) artist gain acceptance in today’s institutional context? A multitude of metaphors can be extracted from the text by James George Frazer and it illuminates some of the systems that different societies have used to catalogue and understand the nature of the world. Applying this theme as underlining support structure for showcasing significant art practices, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane has invited distinguished contemporary artists to exhibit in Gallery eight of Charlemont House, thus placing them in direct dialogue with an institutional and historical context.

Ronnie Hughes’ work has long been interested in this idea of studying ‘nature’; the search to uncover order or pattern within arbitrary phenomena, the setting up of complex hierarchies, classifications, models and conjectures – the quest, or perhaps yearning, for meaning. Hughes’s recent works allude to tensions between fate and accident, order and entropy, between the teleological and the merely random.
Hybrid Cabinet, the title of Hughes’ installation at the Hugh Lane Gallery, is comprised of several elements: There is a series of six small paintings that in various ways straddle the border between the natural and the artificial. The wallpaper-like pattern in Template and Pladis is composed from a dismantled plastic pterodactyl that, figuratively speaking, becomes fossilised in the paintings’ surface. Deviant is a discordant corruption of an initially similar pattern.
The apparent abstraction of Rime is contradicted by its title which suddenly allows a much more representational reading.  Hughes see the pairing of Clatter and Fringilla as akin to a call and response between finches outside his (rural) studio - the arrangements of hard edge triangles like cartoon beaks.

Also included in the installation is a long horizontal sequence of 15 Hybrid drawings that seeks to evoke the taxonomies of a natural history museum exhibit - 15 creatures that on closer inspection turn out to be Frankensteinian amalgams of consumer products.

Finally, Anatomy Lesson is a large drawing laid out forensically upon a glass-topped stainless steel table. The drawing is derived from a series of points on a Chinese acupuncture chart but which Hughes has extended to form a unique circuit that is intended to simultaneously suggest both the physical and the immaterial.

Painter Ronnie Hughes studied at the University of Ulster where he obtained a BA and an MA in Fine Art. He has received many awards including Joint First Prize in the Taylor Awards in 1989, the PS1 Fellowship to New York in 1990, the 1995 EV+A Open Award and a three month residency at the Bemis Foundation, Nebraska, USA in 1996.

He has exhibited widely with solo exhibitions in New York, Belfast, Limerick and Dublin.

Hughes’ art attempts to demythologise cultural perceptions of stereotypical Irishness. He examines the tourist board projection of Ireland as a rural, unspoilt, rugged landscape of honest toil, perceiving the emigrant, as an unskilled peasant.

Another concern of the artist is the contribution of American money to Ireland, which he claims, may be misused for violent activities.

Hughes’ artistic technique is to juxtapose or intermingle images, those representing a culturally loaded past with the reality of the present.

Ronnie Hughes

Ronnie Hughes
signed; inscribed and dated [May/June 1990]
Medium: oil and wax on canvas
Dimensions:91 by 91cm., 36 by 36in.

Exhibited: :  BP annual show 1999  | 0203 589 1577