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'400 Days' and 'Alternative Values' an Exhibition by Frieda Hughes

Wednesday 14th June to Thursday 17th August 2017.

In the Cathedral's North Transept.  Open daily with free entry.

 The first 96 paintings in the series are shown above
The first 96 paintings in the series are shown above

In November 2015 the artist and poet Frieda Hughes decided to find out if she could create a painting every day for a year - the subject was to be an abstract visual diary:  What colour and shape were the events and ideas of each day?  Was she happy, sad, optimistic, frustrated, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, excited, exhausted, full of energy or just plain tired, and what did that look like?  This project is an exploration of how our days change in mood and tone, and what it looks like when one person describes their actual experiences in shape and colour over a finite period of time, and displays them simultaneously so that the evolutionary changes are visible.

The result is '400 Days', 400 paintings that were created between 28th November 2015 and 31st December 2016.  Each image is 10 inches by 14 inches, oil on canvas.

Artist Frieda Hughes in front of some of the '400 Days' paintings
Artist Frieda Hughes in front of some of the '400 Days' paintings

If a painting couldn't be done on the actual day for any reason then it was done the following day, informed by the written diary of the day, which Frieda always kept up to date.  There is one week, following her aunt's death, when it wasn't possible to paint, so Frieda did the paintings for that week during the following week, in tandem with the current days.

For 400 days, when others were going to bed after a hard day's work, or a busy evening, Frieda would shut herself in her studio until the early hours until her painting of the day was finished.  By the end of 2016, other work was being neglected, friendships were being tested, and sleep deprivation was beginning to take its toll.  This too is reflected in the paintings.  The daily paintings had become the non-negotiable daily task that they needed to be in order for the project to reach completion.  Then, on 31st December 2016, after dinner with friends to celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, Frieda completed the last canvas in the series.

The 400 paintings can be hung in variations of one optimum block, which is 16 paintings vertical and 25 paintings horizontal.

Alternative Values by Frieda Hughes
Alternative Values 18 x 14in by Frieda Hughes

'Alternative Values' is a collaboration between Frieda's poetry and her artwork.  From childhood writing and painting have been the two driving forces behind Frieda's commitment to life.  This series of abstract paintings was inspired by Frieda's latest poetry collection 'Alternative Values'.  They are her visual response to the emotional elements in these poems.  This collection of sixty poems focuses on what we mean to each other and how we are valued and contains poems for love, marriage, life, death and addresses some of her childhood experiences as daughter of the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.  How people view each other has always fascinated Frieda; how opinions are often based on no facts at all and how our observations of other people also differ because we view them from the platform of our disparate experiences. The full-colour volume of these poems was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2015.  

Frieda Hughes was born in London in 1960, grew up in Devon, and after living in various parts of England and Australia now lives on the Welsh Borders.  She wrote and painted from an early age and for many years has been a painter and children's writer.  She has published seven children's books and in addition to 'Alternative Values'  has published four other poetry collections.  She has also held many exhibitions. 

Click here to visit Frieda Hughes website.

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