UK Artist HUSH Discusses The “Allure” of His Work

0 Comments 27 May 2016

hush art

UK painter and muralist HUSH speaks about the philosophies the drive his art in advance of his upcoming solo show at the Corey Helford Gallery.

By Daniel Barron


Art, like all forms of beauty, belongs in the eye of the beholder. However, carefully a work is composed, whatever symbols or motifs have been applied, once that signal has been released into the ether, the creator has no control over how it is received or whatever distrurbances may occur in the transmission.

The feminine figures of UK artist known as HUSH, however, have no eyes. Their sockets have been rendered into expressionless black voids, their individuality further muted through bleached out skin. All that is left are the shapely contours, the silhouettes of who these sirens once were. These porcelain muses are then ornamented by expressionist storms of color, geometric shapes, and rough collage elements produced through dense layers of spray paint and screenprinting. A male artist removing the identity from women. What could go wrong?

And yet HUSH’s instantly recognizable aesthetic has propelled him to international stardom in the art world, speaking loud and clear to observers across genders, cultures, and demographics. Because he DOES have a voice, HUSH sat down with HUSH spoke with Yay! LA in advance of his new solo show “Allure” (opening this Saturday at the Corey Helford Gallery) about the themes and perspectives that have shaped his work and why he can’t let the static of the outside world affect his life in the studio.


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Your style has remained instantly recognizable over the years. The geishas, the vacant eyes, the collage elements. With this new set, did you seek to play with or expand those images? What does the name “Allure” mean for the show?
All of my titles sort of derive from post-rationalization. [Ed. Note: The act of giving meaning or purpose to actions after they have been conducted.] I use the motif of taking the eyes away to take away the personality of the females. A lot of people refer to them as geishas, and I’m not offended by that. Certainly it started out like that. But a lot of the girls aren’t Japanese, some of them aren’t even Asian. I’ve painted Black girls, French girls, Spanish, Brazilian, and so on. But I take away their ethnic backgrounds when I paint them. I make them white and I also take away the eyes. And what you’re left with is just a feminine presence. And that’s what I’m after, really, to capture that hold of the female presence.


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I’m glad we’re clearing this up, because I’m sure those are common misconceptions about your work. Of course, the concept of the geisha is associated with a very old-fashioned and subservient ideal of womanhood. That iconography can have a lot of meaning when presented in a modern context.

I’m interested in the distortion that occurs between cultures. You know, when you adopt Asian influences and they adopt ours, like the Japanese punk scene. It’s crazy to see Japanese youth dressed like people from the 70s UK punk scene or the American punk scene. And  vice-versa, how people translate those kinds of cultures in the West. My work kind of plays on that.


The term “cultural appropriation” generally has negative connotations. Clearly there are times when cultural traditions and trends are perverted, but I see the transference as  a natural part of a continuing global conversation.

The world really has turned into a global village in terms of global correspondence, news…subcultures are never really subcultures anymore. Nothing is really underground, because scenes are adopted worldwide, instantly. It’s an exciting time! People with all of these ideas can find each other.


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I think that has been especially helpful of street artists and muralists.
Yes. People are definitely more culturally aware and creatively aware, as well. It’s amazing how clued in people are. Everybody seems to enjoy art or culture in some aspect, you know?
It makes you wonder why empathy isn’t more widespread now. It was easier to understand that back when we didn’t have as much of an impression of how other people lived, when most people could only observe what was in front of them
With racism I can understand thick people  being that. Because, you know, they’re thick. But I don’t know how racism still exists. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.


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Do you feel like your work gets a different reception in the UK than it does in the US?

Not really. The work has always been honest. I think unless you draw flowers or pets or landscapes you don’t really expect to make a living out of art. You look at your paintings sometimes and you kind of think, “How will people take this?” You do it because you want to do it. How people view art and the message that they get from it is completley personal. I have 70-year-old couples buying it. I have skate kids. There are goth guys who love my work and all they see are the dark elements. It’s amazing how it’s adopted by so many different age groups, cultures, it doesn’t seem to have any boundaries, really. I’m quite lucky like that. I think it’s the female presence. I think it makes people feel, I don’t know, “satisfied” or “safe.”

hush art



I first became familiar with your work at a West Hollywood exhibition in early 2011, when street art was seemingly at the zenith of its popularity.

I was glad when all of that happened. There was so much craziness from 2009 until about 2012. And you knew that wasn’t sustainable. I get categorized as a street artist a lot. I think it’s just one of the attention-seeking media labels. Banksy always has to get mentioned in a column. It’s an easy way to get something published. I get called a graffiti artist, too. I mean, I’ve been through, you know, being young and tagging shit, setting off fireworks, as me and my friends did growing up. But just because I did that I wouldn’t call myself a graffiti artist. I think the choice to be a graffiti artist is much more aggressive. It’s vandalism in its purest form. You don’t become the king of graffiti until you’ve gone through being a vandal, being disruptive all the time. You were doing it for your own pursuit. I think street artists, graffiti artists, and fine artists all get thrown in that mix. That’s understandable. But adopting a title that doesn’t fit, that’s where the trouble starts.


hush art


A lot of the most prominent street artists and graffiti artists of the 80s and present are also defined by a strong political agenda and that doesn’t seem to be your objective.

I’m not an activist, I keep my political views to myself, really. For some people, making a politcial viewpoint is their objective. For me, it’s just about the art. I almost feel like I’m cheating people if I say I’m a street artist. These days I do about six murals a year, but my interest is more in the studio. But, I constantly need and will always work on the street. Because it’s invaluable when you have that conversation. How the art works on the street, how you can take that back to the studio and where it takes you…It’s informative in terms of textures, compositions, mediums. And it gives you that nice little boost of confidence, you know? I spend six or seven months a year by myself, driving myself fuckin’ crazy in the studio painting. A spider can crawl across the floor and it makes my head want to explode. And it’s because I sit there and I have far too much time to think! You can give yourself mental health problems by sitting in the studio, you know.


Of course, people will assign political value whether you intend them to or not. Do you ever find that women perceive the work very differently than men?

I had one woman, a feminist, e-mail me asking why I blind the eyes of women, put the mask on. I didn’t even really bother to reply. I think if you concentrate too much on how others will perceive the work it isn’t good for the art. There is sometimes the question of representation. it’s something that I don’t think of when I’m painting all of these girls white. One time I painted a black girl white and someone said to me, “Why did you paint a black girl white?” To me it was about the use of contrast, you know? There are still black features. It’s amazing how you don’t consider or anticipate those perceptions.

Even in my nude paintings I’m more or less painting the beauty of the woman. It’s always more sensual than sexual. Women celebrate women’s bodies all the time. Men don’t really celebrate other guy’s bodies as much. It’s funny how that works. For some reason the figure is more celebrated in art.

People always talk about women being weak, but they kind of rule the world!


“Allure” Promo Video


“Allure” opens at the Corey Helford Gallery on Saturday, May 28th, 7-11pm and runs thru July 2nd.

Learn more about HUSH on his website.

Follow HUSH on Twitter and Instagram.

“Like” HUSH on Facebook.

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- who has written 424 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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