Helen Hughes: finding the most forgiving element

Saturday 6 April – Sunday 26 May 2024
Helen Hughes: Untitled, 2024. 90 x 80 x 90 cm, balloon, rubber, plastic ties (detail) | Helen Hughes: finding the most forgiving element | Saturday 6 April – Sunday 26 May 2024 | Butler Gallery | Helen Hughes: Untitled, 2024. 90 x 80 x 90 cm, balloon, rubber, plastic ties (detail) | photo of the top of a blue-ish, translucent balloon; there’s a bit of khaki plastic sticking out of it and what may be a black rubber tie; the balloon itself is not of the normal party type; instead it appears to be joined-together strips of balloon material; the joins are visible, and the balloon surface curves inwards towards the joins; the background is a slightly pink grey

Butler Gallery is very pleased to present finding the most forgiving element, a new body of work by Helen Hughes that includes sculptures, print works and two short films.

Making and materiality are foundational in my predominately sculptural practice which takes influence from mass produced commodities and the fetishistic surfaces of retail. Honing and developing my own improvised, markedly physical processes, and utilising materials that are wilful and difficult to control (e.g. balloons and fast-cast resins) my practice is rooted in the body and its way of understanding. My intention counters increasingly virtual ways of navigating the world and a growing remove from materiality. Pushing against the nature of materials and their designed functioning, I embrace the surprise and perversity that materialises to reference the accidental / incidental occurring in manufacture. Drawing attention to latent qualities and hidden agency within materials, I view this as an expansion of the industrial process where my improvised actions result in a more human sensibility.
Excerpted from the artist’s statement.

Helen Hughes’ process initially involves much time researching materials, experimenting by folding, dripping, expanding and conjuring up many iterations of an idea in the studio before allowing the works to evolve with conviction. Some of these materials are robust and lasting but most are impossibly fragile.

Hughes inhabits the gallery with brightly-coloured, glossy, ephemeral works that delight, like a perfectly created ice cream sundae dripping in delicious chocolate sauce. She forces the materials she employs to do things they were not originally meant to do. Discovering qualities that have been sleeping within, she awakens them, and lets them be seen as something else.

There is a deeply empathetic quality in Hughes’ sculptures that brings to mind the work of Eva Hesse, a pioneering figure in the post-minimalist art of the 1960s, who left an indelible mark on the art world during her brief but impactful career. The physicality yet fragility of Hesse’s use of non-traditional materials, which blended randomness and structure, chaos and order, remain active and relevant in Hughes’s evocative work. In this exhibition, finding the most forgiving element, Helen Hughes has created a joyous dialogue between materials, processes, signifiers and space that resonates with power and distinction.

Helen Hughes is a Mayo-born artist living and working in Dublin. She graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design, London with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and completed a Masters in Visual Arts Practices through IADT Dublin. She has exhibited widely and her work has received commendations both in Ireland and internationally. Recent shows include Custom House Gallery, Westport (2022), “and Yes, daydreamer S u r R e n d e r”, Roscommon Arts Centre (2021/22), Periodical Review #9, Pallas Projects, Dublin (2019), Dearly Beloved…VISUAL, Carlow (2019) and Syntonic State,TULCA, Galway (2018). She was awarded a Professional Development Bursary from the Arts Council in 2020 and 2022. Also in 2022, she was the Artist-in-Residence on the NCAD MA Fine Art programme and a participant in the Platform 31 grant scheme through Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. She was awarded a public art commission for the Lemon Street area off Grafton Street, to be completed in 2024. Hughes’ next solo exhibition will be at the Ballina Arts Centre, Co. Mayo in 2025.


Image: Helen Hughes: Untitled, 2024. 90 x 80 x 90 cm, balloon, rubber, plastic ties (detail)
Saturday 6 April – Sunday 26 May 2024
Butler Gallery
Evans' Home
John’s Quay, Kilkenny
Telephone: +353 56 7761106
Admission / price: Free
Closed 13:00 - 14:00 until March.

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