“Fantasy For Naughty Boys (Mini Print Series)” by Hush, 2008, Source: Assini-Thomson Collection
Our artist of the week: Hush
The creative now known around the world simply as ‘Hush’ was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK in 1976 and has since entrenched himself firmly into the North East of England’s rich grassroots art scene. However, his oeuvre is also an unashamedly outward-facing one, drawing upon a wealth of international influences, as part of a career that has taken him around the world.
Beyond a mere commitment to female form
Where does one start with any attempt to describe Hush’s decidedly unique style in the space of a few sentences? An obvious starting point would be his focus on the female form, the artist having said in an interview that “the female form is art, and I always like to convey the power of the female form and how the presence of a woman can influence.”
However, there’s also the undeniable fusion of Eastern and Western cultures to consider that helps to make up the Hush aesthetic, as even the women he depicts are not just any women, but instead a blend of classical Sirens, Japanese Geishas and hyper-sexualised Babushkas. Nonetheless, often painted in grey and with their eyes blanked out, these women also routinely appear to be dehumanised avatars of female sensuality in general.
“Dirty Bomb” by Hush, 2007
Arty-Fact: Hush’s artwork is recognizable for its cross-cultural influences. A primary focus is the female form, in particular iconic and Pop Art renditions, from the geisha to anime manga. Exploring figurative elements, the artist confronts and examines the power, innocence, beauty and cunning of feminine sexuality.
These women – alternately described by observers as serene and also scary, according to the artist himself – are shown in sensual blizzards that communicate the timeless and borderless forces of passion and desire. Hush’s works are often chaotic collages that would seem to owe much to the hardwearing, urban aesthetic of the street art tradition with which he grew up.
“Juvenile (Yellow)” by Hush, mixed media on box canvas, 2008, Source: Assini-Thomson Collection
Bringing together apparently incompatible themes
Such blends of seemingly unlikely or mismatched visual elements like those mentioned above are certainly central to the Hush mystique. Drawing upon a phenomenal grasp of well-entrenched figurative and portrait traditions but also an appreciation of the transient thrills of modern life, Hush is clearly not an artist given to, as he puts it, painting “the same thing for the rest of his life”.
However, amid all of the complexities of Hush’s embrace of such supposedly disparate elements as geometric repetition, background blending, graffiti and what the artist calls “the power, innocence, beauty and cunning of feminine sexuality”, there are certain consistent aspects of what he does and how he does it that can be discerned.
One such “aspect” is certainly his enduring connections to Newcastle, as forged through his attendance for five years at the Newcastle School of Art and Design to study graphic design, as well as his decision to open an installation and exhibition space in the city, called onethirty3, in 2011. He also has works in the private collection of another of Newcastle’s galleries, Unit 44.
A proudly international outlook
Hush is one of the many artists active today who are world-prominent in large part because of the truly global nature of what they do. In Hush’s case, that has manifested in international exhibitions at venues including White Walls in San Francisco, Metro Gallery in Melbourne and Lazarides Gallery in London. He has also been involved in collaborations such as the release of a series of snowboards for Burton and a series of commissions for Mitsubishi Securities Bank in London.
Nor can one easily accuse Hush of a failure to attract the interest of high-profile publications, including the magazines Huck, Complex and Art Monthly, as well as the London-based Independent newspaper, which declared him one of its “Top 20 Up and Coming Artists”. He has also been featured in the books Street Knowledge (Harper Collins) and The Street Art Stencil Book (Laurence King Publishing).
“Street Knowledge” by King Adz, Published by Harper Collins, 2011
Ultimately, though, it’s all about the art
However successful or famous Hush may become on the global stage – with his most recent moves including his curatorial debut in New York at the epic Vandal restaurant – there’s no question that it is the trademark Hush aesthetic, meshing together so many seemingly unlikely influences, that will forever remain the biggest ‘star’.
Across Asia, Europe and the US, Hush continues to command an incredible artistic reputation and level of popularity. Some of his admirers are drawn to his focus on sexuality and pornography in Japanese culture, while for others, it’s the rawness of his street pieces that most fascinates. Or it may be such stages of his actual creative process as the screen printing and hand-painting of his collage-effect backgrounds or the addition of graffiti elements by hand that especially intrigues.
As the artist himself has observed: “I’m very interested in technique and the complexity of how I make works and want to always take it further. Every new body of work I make introduces new elements. It’s almost like I’m making a new language and introducing new words to the story each time I approach a piece.”
That sounds like a good metaphor to us here at Addicted Art Gallery – and it’s equally clear that despite the monumental journey Hush’s career has taken to date, he also still has plenty left to say on some of the most profound themes of 21st-century urban culture.
British Street Artist: Hush, Image Source: Gotham Magazine