• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 5390

    20th Century British Art

    7 October 2008, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 221

    Malcolm Hughes (1920-1997)

    Maquette for Aluminium Relief

    Price Realised  


    Malcolm Hughes (1920-1997)
    Maquette for Aluminium Relief
    signed and inscribed 'MALCOLM HUGHES./10 OXFORD RD LONDON SW15/"MAQUETTE FOR WHITE AND ALUMINIUM RELIEF"' (on the reverse)
    oil and aluminium on panel, unframed
    20 x 44 in. (50.8 x 111.8)
    Conceived in 1960s.

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    In common with Jean Spencer and other artists who began working in a systematised constructive mode in the 1960s, Hughes' work at this time mainly consisted of shallow monochrome reliefs. Maquette for Aluminium Relief and other related works also made use of unpainted industrial materials - a feature of historic constructivist philosophy. This maquette (for a larger work) also features an aspect frequently seen in Hughes' work - the juxtaposition of the same or similar forms to set up what Hughes termed a visual dialogue. Here, the relatively simple geometric image on the left is abutted by the same, but inverted, image on the right. By this inversion and by then aligning the bottom edge of the two aluminium squares, the whole work is unified and the visual relationship between the two halves of the work becomes more dynamic.


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    Pre-Lot Text

    Malcolm Hughes (1920 - 1997) was one of a small group of British artists who in the 1960s abandoned figurative painting to explore a form of abstraction rooted firmly in the tradition of European constructivism. Hughes was particularly influential in this field, as in addition to his own work as a painter and relief-maker he was a highly respected art teacher, promoted the discussion of rational art practice with academics and other artists in the UK, and established links with leading proponents of constructive art abroad. Educated at the Royal College of Art, Hughes began teaching at the Slade in 1970 where he was appointed Reader in Fine Art in 1976 and taught there until his retirement in 1983. In 1969, with Jeffrey Steele, he co-founded the Systems Group - a group of artists dedicated to the production of abstract art with an underlying mathematical, topological or geometric logic. After exhibitions in Helsinki and at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol, Hughes' work, with that of the group, was shown in the Arts Council's major Systems exhibition which opened at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1972 and then toured the UK. Earlier, he had exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and at the Salon Des Realits Nouvelle in Paris. With his partner (and later wife) Jean Spencer he travelled extensively, networking with European constructivist artists such as those in the international Arbeitskreis group and exhibiting widely in Germany and Switzerland. Hughes' exhibitions in the UK have included shows at the Tate, Annely Juda and Kettle's Yard galleries. His early work consisted mainly of monochrome wood and metal reliefs but he later made paintings in vivid colour and in his retirement produced computerised graphics. All his work is characterised by logically underpinned order, proportion, sequence and visual rhythm. Public collections holding his work include those of the Arts Council, British Council, Tate Gallery, Bristol and Manchester City Art Galleries, Walker Art Gallery and the V&A Museum.



    Southampton City Art Gallery, A Rational Aesthetic: The Systems Group and Associated Artists, p. 25, pl. 4, illustrated.


    Southampton, Southampton City Art Gallery, A Rational Aesthetic: The Systems Group and Associated Artists, January - March 2008.