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Andy with Dopper Changemaker Judges, London, 2019

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Andy at Gapado AiR, South Korea, 2022


Andy Hughes is a British artist whose practice revolves around the littoral zone and the politics of plastic waste. Hughes studied fine art at Cardiff University and received a scholarship to study photography at the Royal College of Art, London. He was the first artist in residence at Tate Gallery St. Ives. For more than 30 years, he has collaborated with scientists, curators, publishers, NGOs, academics, other artists, and many communities sympathetic to those aiming to examine and consider our relationships with plastic and pollution-related matters. Recent work aims to move beyond the trope of 'raising awareness’ about plastic pollution in the world's oceans by connecting to weirdness, magic and the writings of Timothy Morton.

His first book, 'Dominant Wave Theory,' was published in 2006. This is the first photographic monograph where combined texts from scientists and leading commentators, along with images of wasted and washed ashore plastic debris, are the sole focus of attention. Included in the publication are texts from Dr. Richard Thompson OBE (the first to describe the long-term accumulation and coin the term 'microplastics' in his landmark paper, 'Lost at Sea: Where Is All the Plastic?'). Also included are contributions from Chris Hines MBE (co-founder of Surfers Against Sewage), Dr. Chris Short, Lena Lencek, and Josh Karliner.

Hughes’s work has been widely published in various printed media, online, and on radio and TV, including National Geographic, The Guardian, The Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and the BBC. His work has been exhibited worldwide, including at Tate St Ives, Royal Geographic Society, Anchorage Museum, and recently at the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art, and is included in various public and private collections. He was a recipient of the 2019 Sustainable Earth Institute Creative Associates Award from the University of Plymouth and the 2021 Winner of the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Creative Award. In 2021, his work was awarded 'Best International Exhibit' at the Pingyao International Photography Exhibition in China. The exhibition, titled 'Sand Sea and Soil,' was curated by photography Professor Liz Wells.

Hughes is an affiliate artist with the Plastic Pollution Coalition (Los Angeles) and a long-term member of Surfers Against Sewage, a marine conservation charity working with communities to protect oceans, waves, beaches, and marine life. In June 2013, he was invited by the Alaska SeaLife Centre, The Smithsonian, and the Anchorage Museum to take part in the 'Gyre: The Plastic Ocean Expedition,' the world’s first science and art project dedicated to documenting and interpreting the issue of plastic pollution in the marine environment. He joined artists Mark Dion and Pam Longobardi, including noted author and ecologist Carl Safina, to travel by sea along the Alaskan coastline. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Smithsonian Institution, Rasmussen Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and others supported a National Geographic film, exhibition, and book.

In 2022, he was nominated and undertook a six-month artist residency at Gapado AiR, South Korea, during which he created artworks incorporating various concepts, including the real, the surreal, surfaces, the ocean, circulatory systems, plastic waste, and energy. His work was exhibited, and his research documents were displayed at the Gapado AiR Resident Artist Archive Exhibition, New Design Library Exhibition, Hyundai Card. Two large polycarbonate works were installed overlooking the Sea of Japan. In these outdoor works, the public could examine and observe the setting sun through the depicted transparent image. The depicted marine plastic waste was collected after a typhoon deposited debris ashore on the Island of Gapado.

Hughes speaks internationally about his artworks and connections to sustainability and pollution. He is represented by the speaking agency Champion Speakers and has been invited as a Keynote Speaker at The Future of Sustainability, IPA EFF Week, Havas HKX, London, and for Smart Water at London Zoo. In 2023, he presented his work at Notpla (2022 Earthshot winners). He regularly attends and presents at various symposia, panels, talks, and research groups. Hughes has been committed to teaching and delivering workshops around the world with local communities, schools, and universities, from the Western Indian Ocean to South Korea. He often works with other academics and organizations such as Plastic Free Jeju, Surfers Against Sewage, Plymouth Marine Lab, Cornwall and Devon AONB, Ruritage, Blue Mind, European Centre for Human Health, Sustainable Earth Institute, Raw Foundation, and many others.

"When I first noticed the impact of marine plastic and other waste debris sitting on a surfboard more than 30 years ago, it reminded me of the waste I grew up with in the Coalfield of Yorkshire. But rather than being fixed and terrestrial, it was floating and suspended in the sea. My work aims to move beyond established visual tropes where messages of eco or plastic awareness lurk within. What we need is more than technocratic solutions to the eco-crises we face as a species. Combining photographic assemblage, archival video, and AI, I aim to investigate and comment on the complexities of waste matter, which include plastic, within a framework of new materialism. Concepts like viscosity, object agency, circulation, hyperobjects, the abyssal, and ongoing ecological concerns govern my creative processes. My work aims to provoke heightened attentiveness and synesthetic modes of perception, challenging conventional ideas surrounding climate change and the broader environmental crisis. The first ocean life forms were microscopic, so small they would be invisible to the naked eye. It is what we cannot see that perhaps requires our focused attention now." 


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