London art


Marie Hugo  |   Transformations    16th May - 16th June   2007 


Marie Hugo studied lithography and engraving at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montpellier, in the seventies, whilst working with her father, the painter Jean Hugo, in his studio. After completing her studies, she traveled extensively throughout Asia and the Far East, first settling in Hong Kong, then returning to Europe and London in 1982. Her early works include illustrations for the Imprimerie Nationale’s editions of La Fontaine’s Fables, gouaches and oil paintings of  gardens and views through windows, drawings of imaginary animals and plants inspired from her travels and a series of landscapes of the Camargue and it’s Natural Reserve.

The end of the 80’s sees the emergence of a personal renewal finding its source in the visionary space of the subconscious. A paradox of anxiety and serenity, in which red and blue defy each other in space to create icons suspended in time and motion. For these “Inner Landscape” works, Marie Hugo used a mixture of oil, egg and pigments, a technique used in iconic art. Along side this very personal work she also produced large-scale mural paintings commissioned by and for hotels and public spaces in the Far East, and decorative panels on supports of wood, stone or canvas for private commissions.

In 1998, a change in her work takes place as much through media as subject matter. Marie Hugo has developed her own technique whereby she starts with pure water in which she would apply ink: ‘Of course ink has a life of its own but it is up to me to control it either by adding water of by putting a stone underneath to make it flow in a controlled direction’. Water enables her to achieve the wistful delicacy so similar to Chinese still life and landscapes. Colour is sparingly used but we see it for instance in the series of Wasps in which the elongated body of the insect consists of alternating layers of read and black, leaving black to articulate the head and antennae, whilst in the Octopus series the sea creature is defined by black ink against a vibrant background obtained by using brown washes to vary the intensity. The special red pigment used is encre de Chine (India ink) she particularly likes because it is a hard stick that needs to be broken down and the physical process ‘makes me relax and meditate before using it’. Unconsciously or not, she is in fact employing a method similar to that of Chinese’ painters who require: ‘a long period of concentration and identification of the self with the subject’ before ‘the lightening outpouring of lines and tones’. Her ink and water technique, also used by her ancestor Victor Hugo in his works of mysterious and fantastic castles, plays with the fusion between contrasts of ink and the drying of water rendering sensations of great movement and recreating emotions of our time and place in the world.

The more recent Light Sculptures are pillars made of white canvas decorated with  abstract, ideogram like patterns, in black ink which can be either free standing, hang from the ceiling or rest against a wall. They are an important development because they provided the justification Marie Hugo was looking for that would take her away from all that ‘framing and putting things under glass’, as she summed up the material ‘concerns’ of the traditional painter which made her want to move into ‘objecthood’ and thus onto 3-D.  After several tentative forays into the fashion world, the Light Sculptures provide another example of her ability to add a functional dimension to her art.