Shara Hughes’ mind-bending landscapes captivate Zurich art scene

The plants in Shara Hughes’s mesmerising paintings transport viewers far from reality. The American artist’s surreal forms, seemingly conjured from the depths of her imagination, feature towering trees rendered in spidery strokes of yellow, green, and orange in “Wits End” (2024), or adorned with vibrant, fluffy blue dots in “What Nerve” (2024), per Her works blur the lines between background and foreground, creating a rich tapestry of dynamic visuals.

Hughes’s landscapes are psychological renderings of her inner world. “These landscapes are my present moment,” she explained in an interview ahead of her exhibition “Tree Farm” at Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich, on view until July 20, 2024. “They are about relationships, reactions to the world, and personal life events.” Hughes began painting these imaginative scenes after moving to New York in 2014, transitioning from detailed interiors to these vivid, subconscious landscapes.

Her artistic journey gained momentum after her work was featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, receiving praise from critic Roberta Smith. Hughes’s market has since flourished, with her works held in prestigious collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Her solo exhibitions have spanned institutions including the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg, and the Kunstmuseum Luzern.

The exhibition’s title, “Tree Farm,” references Hughes’s family farm in southwest Georgia, a place of creativity and self-reliance. Despite its peaceful memories, Hughes admits some paintings reflect deeper emotional conflicts. “What’s funny is that I associate our tree farm with freedom and happiness, yet some tree paintings are troubled,” she noted. “Harder Core” and “What Nerve” address recovery from stress and pain, while “Come and Get It” evokes a combative spirit.

“Tree Farm” also showcases works by her father, Joe Hughes, highlighting their personal significance and raw authenticity. Additionally, Hughes introduces her ceramics in this exhibition, marking her first foray into this medium. These organic, plant-inspired sculptures offer a new dimension to her artistic exploration, emphasising the interplay of patience and creativity. “They brought me back to being a kid and exploring,” she reflected, underscoring the exhibition’s thematic return to her roots.


  • Featured image: Visitors huddle to see Shara Hughes, Some Flowers Get Trampled in Basel, Switzerland, 2023/Harold Cunningham/Getty Images


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