Artist Zac Hughson on gender norms, working in retail and haircuts

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Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

Displacement. It means something different to everyone. It connotes a different feeling. But it is something we have all felt, experienced, fought against or thrived within at one point in our lives.

Displacement is the theme for Edinburgh College of Art’s newest Canvas exhibition. The theme allows artists to explore the limitations they face within their creative fields and themselves as artists and individuals. Not only does the exhibition allow artists to showcase their personally explorative works, it invites varied art forms and artists to merge and inspire discussions. The Canvas collective hope to do more than inspire discussions. The Canvas collective hope to do more than inspire, but rather challenge the artist and the viewer.

ECA’s Firehouse Building opened its doors for the exhibition’s launch night on Thursday 31st January. The mood of the room was serene and thoughtful. Under dimmed lighting, a huge installations stood out in a darkened corner. A hilly mound of structured wool topped grey masses of concrete – one ball and one cube. The piece was untitled, and the artist behind the work – Zac Hughson – admitted he has never named any of his work. Ever. Although, he did give the two pieces of concrete various pet names.

Zac is a third year Sculpture student at ECA. He’s engaging, open and eloquent. The more you speak with Zac, the more the apparent how perfect the use of concrete is. He believes it’s a misunderstood material. It begins as something to be freely shaped but it doesn’t have to remain in any set form.

Zac spoke to EN4News on the opening night of the exhibition.

The stem of a lot things I’ve been doing comes from recently getting my haircut. That sounds so banal and minor but it made such a weird, unexpected difference in my life.

When I got my haircut people would speak to me in a different way. I work in retail so I noticed the way people address me behind a till is very different now. Male customers tended not to speak to me that much but now that I’ve had my haircut I get asked so many sports questions. The way people will address me or assume how I’ll speak with them now is quite strange because I’m still the same person. I think when there’s something that isn’t masculine or feminine and instead something that is crossing and merging those boundaries is when people sort of freak out a bit.

I’m documenting the shift in relationships between masculinity and femininity and their place in the world. We can start investigating our own things in third year and it’s resulted in me going against the norm. Experiencing things, experiencing change and then pushing that onto objects, spaces and contexts.

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Untitled by Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

I like to blur things, change them and play with things. I really like looking at and exploring binary – sometimes I go out with make up on and glitter and then some days I just like to look really plain. I think it’s fun express but then taking in response to that is eye opening to the way people work.

A reaction is better than no reaction. I like people to come up with their own meaning and take away from it what they can. I think it has got to a point of looking at relationships between things and then they can take away what sort of relationship between that is. I’m not forcing it, it’s not a very explicit piece, it’s personal in a respect but not so obvious.

Certain people take certain things away from it. It does have quite a masculine look to it and almost a caricature of a formal, bold masculine sculpture.

I’ve never been happy with how an art piece turns out in my life! I think as soon as I’ve produced something than I have a yearning to push it further or to change it.

I like engaging with material, I think that is the primal side of sculpture. I think it’s so much more alive than other forms of art. I feel much more connected to it. I feel like I can manipulate it more than other types of art and then it can live in a different space.

I’m actually really weird about where my work gets exhibited – I must be a picky artist type! But I’m really pleased with the curation of this space. I think my piece works in this space and I’m excited to have my work exhibited with other people and disciplines. It’s really different from what I’ve done so far.

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Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

 

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