Our April artist of the month is Mark Curtis Hughes whose large-scale papercuts are tapestries of everyday life.
Mark Curtis Hughes
South London, UK
"There’s a kind of chaos in everyday life that I feel my work documents. I think of my artwork as a tapestry of everyday life, and I love it when people find stories or details within in."
Where do you make your work?
For the last three years I've been working in my little garden studio in South London. It doubled as an online classroom during lockdown, so I've spent more hours in there than I expected.
It’s a lovely space. Lots of green out the window, comfortable and quiet. My family and I are moving in the near future, and I've already marked out a studio space in our new house, but my garden studio will always be special to me.
How long have you been working with paper?
I’ve been working in paper for twelve years. I studied an MA in Printmaking, and I found myself looking for ways to make my prints more dynamic, and I started papercutting as an in between step, to help me take my drawings into print.
Visually they resemble woodcuts, but they can be created much more spontaneously and with greater energy. Gradually, I realised that it was papercutting I wanted to focus on. I’ve built my practice slowly alongside full time teaching.
How would you describe your approach to paper art?
For me, papercutting is an expressive process. I improvise my pieces as I work, so there is a sense of exposing or uncovering something unexpected. For me, the process is an excavation, and I love the journey of discovery.
I’m particularly interested in the mark making with a knife, which I why I tend to stick to a single layer of paper. There’s a kind of chaos in everyday life that I feel my work documents. I think of my artwork as a tapestry of everyday life, and I love it when people find stories or details within in.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m a people watcher, which is perfect for my commute through central London every day. I'm fascinated by the way people put up masks and project boundaries. A lot of my inspiration comes from the things I see or experience day to day. But I'm also inspired by stories and music. In each of my pieces there will be several reference points that I've grazed from different places.
Describe your work to us in three words:
Expressive, transient, liminal
What are your favorite papers to work with?
I like to use relatively thin papers. 120 or 140 gsm. I find these are strong enough, but also enable me to cut quickly and fluidly.
What tool could you not live without?
I have a well loved Swann Morton handle, and I also love to use my Ergo Kiwi blade. Otherwise, my drawing board has become essential, I like to work upright. I don’t think I could work without my headphones and a queue of podcasts.
What is the best thing about working with paper as a medium?
I suppose it’s a little like discovering you’re good at singing or playing Tennis. When I started working with a scalpel everything about it felt right, it’s suits my style and my mentality. I could probably use other art mediums if I wanted, but I find something about the process of uncovering an image very enticing.
Who are some of your favorite paper artists?
What are you working on at the moment?
In April I’m taking part in Roy’s Art Fair in central London, please come along, buy some work and say hello! From May onwards I'll have some artwork in “The Cutting Edge- Matisse and Contemporary Paper artists” at Rheged Gallery.
In the next 18 months I'm going to be cutting down on my teaching and picking up my art practice in a more focused way. I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me.