Once in the early hours of a cold, dark January, a girl on the N38 caught my eye and asked me to write my number in the back of her yellowing copy of Mrs Dalloway. It sounds like the beginning of a clichéd love story, but this tale has no middle or end. After the Bear Mountain Picnic explores the meaning we take from chance encounters. The scalpel blade exposes each fragment; each passing glance, every shadowy half smile, each crook and every broken promise.
Born and raised in rural Leicester, Mark Curtis Hughes studied printmaking at the University of the West of England before moving to London. Hughes’ interest in papercuts grew out of experiments developing his woodblock prints. The structure of a cutout created a useful visual stepping stone between a drawing and the relief block. Eventually, the spontaneity of the improvised papercut, and the freedom that came with dissecting and slicing, became more important than developing the image into a print.
After the Bear Mountain Picnic is Hughes’ second solo exhibition of papercuts. The idea of chaos wrought by poor management and bad decision making was the jumping off point for this series. The title is lifted from a song by Bob Dylan which describes the tragedy of a boat sinking because tickets have been over sold for a picnic trip in order for the authorities to maximise profit. The pieces on display capture snapshots of intimate interaction, dangerous disorder and pure emotion as we journey through the city.
The girl on the bus observed that Leicester produces nomads who move to London. Our journey into or out of the unknown is a jigsaw of vignettes from our peripheral vision. No beginning, middle or end, just steady movement.