Hugh Somerville’s most recent solo exhibition, ‘Welcome to Shugville’ is at once delicate and disturbing. Working with both watercolour and gouache, Somerville conveys surreal mythical narratives through intricate detail.
As I wandered around Somerville’s work, I found myself feeling very grateful for the ample natural light in the Lumen Gallery. Although the works are small (usually 20 x 20 cm or thereabouts), their often haunting qualities exceed their frames and fill your imagination. Works like ‘Marsh’ and ‘King Meek’ made me feel like I had stumbled into the film Pan’s Labyrinth; beautiful, yes but inescapably foreboding. Somerville has painted a range of works however, and impressively, they go from charming and compelling to downright gruesome.
Somerville, who trained at l’Atelier de la Bande-Dessinee in Angouleme, demonstrates his fine technique in small strokes which makes each piece appear to tremble. My favorite piece is the perfect case-in-point. ‘Fox’ features a woman whose Rapunzel-esque mane fills almost 50% of the frame. In the midst of her painstakingly detailed golden locks sits a fox, jaws thrown open, standing on his hind legs. Between the coarse hairs of the fox’s coat, and the golden threads of the woman’s hair, Somerville successfully conveys the irritated restlessness of the fox as well as the resignation and stillness of the woman. I got the fantastic sense of a hundred fairy tales woven into one, and yet this painting was obviously telling a new story, the likes of which I had never seen.
There are simpler pieces as well. They are expertly hung side-by-side so that their ‘togetherness’ creates its own narrative. Pieces like ‘Squash and Pumpkin’ or ‘Blowfish and Feather’ (another favorite of mine) centre on pairs of things that at first glance, seem rather straightforward but that begin to take on curious personalities as you observe them. Why a blowfish and a feather? I have no idea, but I loved the idea that this obese blowfish was swimming with all his might towards the top of his frame so that he might catch the elusive feather always floating just above his chubby jaws. This is perhaps the beauty of Somerville’s less complicated pieces: they allow for imaginative interpretations and aid DIY narratives.
All of Somerville’s pieces are for sale (see the ‘Buy’ link on his webpage), and for original art from an established artist, the prices are super reasonable. For a piece or two in particular, all of the proceeds from sales will go to support ‘Art Against Knives’.
This is Somerville’s first show in quite some time and it’s clear that the man has been stockpiling his talent. Each piece in ‘Welcome to Shugville’ tells a story and each one asks you as the viewer to imagine yourself in that narrative. This is a great collection by a fascinating artist.
The exhibition runs for two more days from 8am -5pm each day, or other times can be arranged by appointment. Visit their webpage for location and gallery details.
For more information about Hugh Somerville, or to view his work online visit his webpage at www.shugville.com.
Samantha is the Managing Editor and PR of GEEKED Magazine. She is also in the writing-up stages of her PhD at SOAS, in London. Though she hails from the southern US, she is a long-time resident of the Big Smoke. Sam is a fierce feminist, loves profanity, and is constantly trying to convince her partner to have ‘just one more pint’. Follow her on Twitter @s_langsdale