Artist profile - Amy Hughes
- Credit: not Archant
A young artist from Davenham is loving life in New York. Paul Mackenzie reports.
Lottie the Labrador might look at home in New York’s Central Park, but she lives in the rather quieter surroundings of Plumley, near Knutsford. And while she may not have won any medals at Crufts, the painting of her resting in the park more than 3,000 miles away has won awards at the Westminster Kennel Club Painting Competition.
Lottie belongs to a friend of artist Amy Hughes. Amy grew up in Davenham but moved to the States a couple of years ago to study at the New York Academy of Art. After graduating from there last May, Amy stayed on in the city and now has a studio and a burgeoning career and reputation.
‘I moved to NYC because I knew that it was where my work needed to be, it’s really at the forefront of the art world,’ she said. ‘Living here has been very exciting, I really love it and couldn’t see myself anywhere else now.’
The former pupil of the Grange School at Northwich spent some of her childhood in Moscow. Returning to Cheshire she attended Cransley School in Great Budworth, then Sir John Deane’s College and Liverpool Hope University where she studied Fine Art.
‘In Russia I attended the Anglo American School of Moscow,’ she said. ‘I think it was from that point that I knew I wanted to live in America some day, their positive mentality and encouragement towards work was really inspiring.
‘There were two incredibly influential teachers and if it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be an artist today. The first, was Jill West at Cransley School. She was calming and had us engaging in all sorts of experimental projects and mediums. The second was Andy Marshall at Sir John Deane’s College, his teaching was truly outstanding and he was really able to tap into each student’s individual potential, mine being depicting the human body through paint. His encouragement meant a great deal to me, especially as I tend to be highly self-critical. He gave me the confidence to pursue painting as a career.’
A painting from her graduate show at Hope University is now in the private collection at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and Amy, whose first solo show was at the Artwork Gallery in Northwich, now has a studio on West 39th Street, close to other students she studied with at the city’s Academy of Art.
‘It’s great because a few of my classmates and friends from the academy have our studios there. We think it’s really important to maintain the community. I spend most of my time painting, but when I’m not, I’m usually working as a teaching assistant at the Academy or visiting galleries and eating at various wonderful restaurants and bars – you can never run out of things to do in New York!’
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Much of Amy’s work features the human body but she has produced work showing flesh of a different kind.
‘I’m fascinated with the human body and how oil paint can literally become flesh,’ she said. ‘My previous series of work featured the flesh of tomatoes or a salmon fillet. The salmon resting on a plate was a nod to the history of painting the reclining nude, and the meat a surrogate for the female body. My new series is about to return to painting the human figure.
‘I think my work is much more conscious now. Learning and mastering the skills and techniques associated with oil paint has meant that I paint in a way that is in service of the concept, not that it’s just the only way I know how.
‘I usually work from a photo reference that I take, typically I use myself as the model, it feels more authentic and less staged. Having worked from life a lot, I try to take my knowledge from that in a way that transcends the photo reference.’
Her painting of Lottie was on display at the Westminster Kennel Club Painting Competition at Madison Square Gardens in February and she will be taking part in an Open Studios event in April. The canvases currently on her easel are for private commissions and pet portraits.
Amy, who will be 25 next month, returns to Cheshire a couple of times a year – at Christmas and in the summer – and although she loves the New York lifestyle, there are things she misses about home. ‘Apart from my family, I miss the countryside and fresh air, horse riding at Cheshire Riding School and good old English pub food.’
Last August we featured Romiley artist Elizabeth Waggett, who is also now based in New York. Read her story here