‘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-Dessinée in Angoulême, 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.
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.’ (Samantha Langsdale for GEEKED Magazine)
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