"Very few directors have tackled the complex relationship between environmental issues and digital games. With Plastic Scoop, Andy Hughes makes that connection painfully manifest. By appropriating both the aesthetics of video games and the language of vintage promotional videos and other archival material, à la Adam Curtis, Hughes reminds us that have become aliens to our own planet”.
In 1991 Andy Hughes began photographing the plastic waste he observed on the beach, after surfing along the coast of South Wales. Made at beach locations from California, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall between 1999 - 2004, they explore and examine the relationship of beach waste as both an object of visual inquiry and as a reference to the global environmental crisis.
Inspired by the H. G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds, Hughes has created a new series of photographs during the fist covid lockdown. Wells imagined an advanced but ailing alien race struggling to survive on dying planet. Along with the alien invasion came a weird and strange plant called the red creeper or the red weed. When exposed to water, it grew and reproduced flooding the countryside, clogging streams and rivers.
Following on from his recent project Red Creeper, these new photographs apply infra-red simulated post-production aesthetics. Blending reality with fiction, simultaneously highlighting how mining activity extensively transformed the landscape of Cornwall. These photographs turn the scarred landscape an eerie crimson and turn mine runoff iridescent cyan or blue.
These works concentrate on the mundane nature of the beach and intimate knowledge of how the waters edge might be experienced beyond that of a surfer or beach affecianado. Hughes' enduring interest in the interaction between place, objects and the seascape is also evident. His approach to the coast echoes his photographic approach to waste and plastic pollution.
'Oceanic expanses have long been perceivable as overdetermined cultural signs in various geographic contexts and historical periods, and today’s fraught rhetoric about this liquid sphere is no less complex and conflicted'.
Extract from the Essay Ocean Semiosis by Abigail Susik © 2013 Abigail Susik
These selected images come from Hughes' Glastonbury Opus series. They explore tensions between the seductive depiction of colour, sculptural forms with an underlying narrative that describes a type of environmental degradation that results from a large festival event.
Paul Nash gave a sense of ‘aliveness’ to everything, even inanimate matter. More than 80 years later Jane Bennet also described in her book Vibrant Matter the basic argument is that everything is alive, interconnected, and in process: not only plants and humans but rocks and air. Since 2018 Hughes has been visiting sites where the Bristish artist Paul Nash created work.
A dedicated page which explores motivation and methodology underpinning Hughes practice. Works from 1989 - 1999 are featured which gives an insight to his current practice. .
Once used and tossed away, all manner of convenience driven items such as coffee cups, bottled water, sandwich cartons start their life in all habitats and locations from the remotest outpost of human settlements to the urban sprawls of major cities.
The cyclic narrative of the Pacific Gyre is driven by immense oceanic global systems much greater in time span than human industrial processes. Our cognition of the disposal and dispersal of human debris is founded partly by photographic recorded evidence and that of narratives based upon systematic scientific investigation.
Works created for the project: Gyre, The Plastic Ocean.
Anchorage Museum, Alaska, 2014
“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure….. Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself ? ”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, 1851
In 1990 Andy Hughes discovered an unusual material, it felt and looked like ‘plastic rock’. These forms were integrated into a number of his early photographic works. Some of the images displayed here were made using 5×4 Fuji Transparency film, they were included in his graduating exhibition at the Royal College of Art, Gulbenkian Gallery, London in 1991. Recently he has re-developed several works using collected materials from various locations.
Andy Hughes, Pam Longobardi, Mark Dion, Karen Larsen and a team of scientists investigate the buildup of marine and plastic debris along the Alaskan coast. A unique and worlds first art and science exhibition titled Gyre: The Plastic Ocean brought the problem of ocean plastic pollution into perspective. The exhibition, book and film explore the complex relationship between humans and the ocean in a contemporary culture of consumption.
These photographs offer an insight into the world of the surf-grom (an under 16 young girl or boy surfer). Andy Hughes’ portrait series of young surfers show his sitters often clad in neoprene, emblazoned with logos and graphic symbols, they seem both vulnerable and confident. Each looks out at us, with all the trappings of modern contemporary life. The current cultural fascination with the beach and surfers as presented in numerous magazines and commercial advertising sits comfortably with the multitude of various picturesque images of the beach and sea with silhouetted surfers against sunsets, breaking waves. Hughes groms are the antithesis of these recurrent tropes.