signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'SHARA HUGHES 2008 NEW YORK BROOKLYN "TWISTER"' (on the reverse)
oil, acrylic and enamel on canvas
52 1⁄8 x 48 1⁄8in. (132.5 x 122.2cm.)
Executed in 2008
Galerie Mikael Andersen, Copenhagen.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008.

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Lot Essay

Executed in 2008, Twister is a vibrant and transfixing early work by Shara Hughes. The painting presents an interior on the brink of destruction as a tornado swirls menacingly in the centre and white, tendril-like, brushstrokes anchor the whirlwind to the house. Reality is suspended in the storm of movement. Scattered furnishings, the physical components of a home, curl inwards across the floor as if they too exist in a tornado. Household clutter spirals inch by inch into what simultaneously appears as both an elaborate carpet, and a whirling vortex that gapes open to expose a tessellation of white houses. It was Hughes’ interiors that first launched the artist to international acclaim, their dream-like spaces paving the way for her landscape paintings of the following decade. Her psychologised domestic scenes map out her own interior worlds, alive with painterly and personal drama.

The work dates from a period of early professional triumph for Hughes, who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004. In 2008, she moved beyond North America with sell-out solo exhibitions in London and Denmark, the latter of which featured Twister. During this period, her interiors emerged as sites of radical experimentation: for her, the subject ‘always felt like the best resolution to everything’ (S. Hughes, quoted in R. Reese, ‘Shara Hughes’, Bomb Magazine, April 2013). These works were almost palimpsestic, alluding to dynasties of art-historical traditions. Twister’s vibrant jewel-toned colour palette recalls the domestic scenes of Hockney and Matisse, as well as those of Picasso in the late 1950s. At the same time, Hughes’ interiors also functioned as self-portraits of sorts, existing as refractions of herself. In the wake of her parents’ divorce, she explains, ‘I latched onto the idea of interiors because I was always trying to create some other kind of home, in a way. Whereas my space—the one that I’ve always known—has been broken’ (S. Hughes, ibid.). With its swirling tornado and hint of a yellow brick road, Twister seems to conjure playful memories of Frank L. Baum’s timeless classic, The Wizard of Oz: a poignant meditation on this very theme.

Twister, like much of Hughes’ work, is fervently composed from a variety of textures and patterns, which give it a vivid tactility and physicality. ‘I have always used this feeling of collage through different ways to paint’, she explains. ‘Texture, pattern, and perspective is something I like to use to describe a space in ways that maybe don’t always make much sense’ (S. Hughes, quoted in ‘Shara Hughes, Featured Artist’, Maake Magazine, Issue 1, 2015, n.p.). In Twister, the tornado’s threatening power lies in its swirling gestural brushstrokes, thick with impasto. Elsewhere, Hughes plays with intricate geometries: her carpet of abstract patterns turn into yellow bricks, into paving, and back into patterns. It is as if the ground has fallen away, layers peeled back, like a geological core sample, exposing a whole new space: a world of order and repetition, where pristine houses slot together like parquetry. The painting vibrates with a whirlwind of colour, ideas, and possibilities. In the chaos of the twister, Hughes’ early artistic language comes to life.

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