As April come to a close, we are thrilled to announce that Ryan Hughes is our Artist of the Month! A Minneapolis-based painter, Hughes experiments with both figuration and abstraction, blurring the distinction between reality and imagination. Often presenting objects in isolation, Hughes invites the viewer to challenge the familiar while simultaneously exploring the unknown. We had the chance to catch up with Ryan Hughes and learn a bit more about his background and practice.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Was being an artist always a part of your plan?
When I was young, I had very little idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Being an adult seemed like such a strange concept. I think today, being an artist for me is a way to stay connected to that sense of wonder and not knowing. Throughout my life, I was always interested in creative activities, eventually it became a natural trajectory through what is now an adult life.
An Instrument for Producing A Current of Air, acrylic on canvas (2015)
Describe your art in one word.
Trim, acrylic on wood (2015)
Tell me more about your choice of medium. What is the best and worst thing about painting?
I paint with acrylic paint, which allows me the precision and defined edges I look for in my image making. The best thing about painting is that it can be anything, you can create an infinite amount of visual representations. But this is also the worst thing about painting: the weight of the responsibility that comes with this type of freedom.
Alter Ego, acrylic on canvas (2015)
Can you describe your creative process? What is an average day like in the studio?
My process starts by finding what image or thing I want to paint. The images arrive in various ways, from google image searching, reading something that will cue an image in my mind, a hunch or wonderment about something, or sometimes the choice seems arbitrary in the beginning. Through the process of painting, the meaning becomes more fulfilled.
An average day in the studio typically beings at night. I’ve been a night owl my entire life, so I often arrive at 6 pm and will paint until the early morning hours of the following day. Working in the night has always been important to me. I feel there are less interruptions from the outside world which allows me to focus more on the work, while simultaneously getting lost.
Hidden Agenda, acrylic on canvas (2014)
You often represent specific motifs in your work. Can you tell me about these images? Is your interest in them more symbolic or aesthetic?
Over time, I have been building my own icon library through the images I paint. Repetition of certain objects has become important, as the objects themselves gain more importance as I paint them and their meaning flourishes with metaphor and personal narrative. The interest is both symbolic and aesthetic. I typically portray objects alone, isolated into the center of the image space, completely removed from all of their normal surroundings. The removal from their normal environments is a key aspect for looking at these objects in new or unexpected ways.
Moments of respite through aesthetic contemplation, watercolor on paper (2013)
If you could have dinner with any artist, dead or alive, who would he or she be?
Dead would be Willem de Kooning. Alive, Gordon Moore.
Half, acrylic on canvas (2014)
Where were you born and raised? How do you think that has influenced your creative growth?
I was born in Winona, Minnesota but grew up in Saint Peter, Minnesota. It was more or less a typical small town upbringing, but I had very supportive parents, who would bring me to Minneapolis often so I could access things and places not available near me. I think growing up in a small town makes you yearn for more in various ways, whether it’s a job, people, places; I always knew there was more to explore beyond where I was born. Now that I have lived in Minneapolis for a while and my painting practice has grown, my mode of exploration for my creative process is more psychological, as I am interested at getting to various roots of thinking and dissecting various modes of perception and reality.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on a new series of plant paintings, where I am painting the same plant repeatedly and only involving subtle changes in the image itself.
Acrylic on panel (2016)
What has been the scariest moment in your life?
The scariest moment of my life was the unexpected passing of my father in 2012. It became a strange valuable lesson, as I was given a very vivid example of how life can be over at any minute and to always live and love every moment you are handed by the universe.
The state of looking or being like something else, acrylic on canvas (2015)
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I think NYC would be a great place to live and work, since it is one of the epicenters of the art world, but I also daydream about living in the middle of nowhere, completely removed from all I have known thus far in life.
Gold Hanger, acrylic on canvas (2015)
Any fun facts?
I have a cat, Wilbur, who will be 20 this year!
Ryan Hughes has a BFA in Fine Art from Minneapolis College of Art & Design and a AAS in Graphic Design from Minneapolis Community & Technical College. He has been a resident artist at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah and has also participated in an experimental class residency at the Walker Art Center.
Hughes has worked with Target, Fiat Automotive, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, MCAD, and Medtronic. Additionally, he has been featured in L’etoile Magazine, Minneapolis St.Paul Magazine, Paper Darts, Fox 9 Morning Show, and Citypages.
All images are courtesy of the artist.