Venue
Oriel Wrecsam
Location
Wales

What struck me as I walked into the Steffan Jones Hughes exhibition – 'I lie awake at night and listen to the birds singing… ' was the sheer volume and scope of the work.

Black dominates the work in the exhibition with just a nod to colour here and there – a blood red squeezed to the edge in one print. Framed prints lined the walls, display cases filled with curios and one length of the gallery completely covered with Guardian Guides. But where to begin? A narrative with no beginning or end.

At first glance, the cast of assembled characters appeared comical and naïve and then in the best tradition of the fairytale, you are drawn into the darker world; that of dreams and nightmares. The fragile child pitched against the grown up world of menace, sexuality and death. Trapped in the confines of dodgy adult authority. Adult hopes and fears for ourselves and the people we love. It was all here – those flashes of panic that wake you at 2am and stay with you long after.

It is said that we need dark tales and horror stories. That we need to be frightened to learn to cope with life and that the brothers Grimm and other spinners of fairytales address our primal fears. In this autobiographical exhibition Jones Hughes presents a fresh approach and manages to avoid cliché.

The largest work of simple black images painted onto Guardian Guides, tacked unframed to the wall and running the length of the gallery – asking life's fundamental questions. Am I random? Nicely put. The raw energy of our restless brains running amok in our search for answers.

The display cases held the most exquisite printed eggshells. I had a desperate urge to take one out of the case, turn it in my hand and examine it closely. Knowing that it could so easily be crushed made the image appear precious. They brought to mind the decorated eggs of the Orthodox church of my youth as a symbol of life, death and rebirth – the end of winter and the start of spring.

I left the exhibition with a deeply unsettled feeling that hung around and stirred my own round of life's Q&A's. The relationship between children and adults is a finely balanced act and the work here demonstrates all too clearly that the cycle of life does not fundamentally change from one generation to the next. Neither does the question of how can we throw a protecting veil over our children and yet allow them freedom to grow, take charge of their own lives and move with confidence into the adult world? A thought-provoking and original exhibition that I enjoyed at many levels.


1 Suggestion