• Michael McHugh

Föenander Galleries is thrilled to present Michael McHugh’s debut exhibition, Pacific Street.

McHugh’s paintings reflect an instantly familiar vision of exotic forms and nature’s exuberance, as well as a highly personal perception of subject matter. His playfulness is complemented by an abstract rationale, which breaks forms down into layered and lively compositions of geometry, pattern, texture and colour. Works are sometimes sombre and brooding, and other times energetic, vibrant and emotive, with textural layers echoing moments in time.

McHugh maintains an active drawing practice in the planning stages which aids the compositions and techniques utilised in his large-scale paintings. His distinctive botanical language, juxtaposes hard graphic forms, against fluid painterly gesture, both of which hang together in what has been described as a ‘riot of colour’. His process involves collage-based colour studies, in which he works with drawings, texture and pattern- breaking images apart and reforming them. McHugh pushes at the boundary between the familiar and the unfamiliar, confounding expectations of scale and perspective, while merging memories and experience of the world he encounters.

In preparation for this exhibition, McHugh had initially planned a research trip to the Pacific Islands, in order to research plant forms first hand and investigate notions of the Pacific. Unfortunately, the global pandemic prevented this trip and the artist adapted his vision – thinking more locally and personally about the concept of ‘Pacific’. As it happens, McHugh lives on Pacific Street, and consequently spent much of his time in lockdown thinking and drawing in his own backyard. While observing the variety of plant forms on daily walks around his neighbourhood – exploring unique forms, colours and textures – the exhibition started to take shape.

What eventuated, while different to what was planned, is an imaginative, yet authentic investigation of the Pacific. McHugh’s new works shift between the micro and macro, drawing the viewer in with their almost obsessive, repetitive detail and symphonic use of colour. These vibrant and sensual paintings conjure depth using flat forms and offer the illusion of movement and space, allowing the viewer to lose themselves in this glorious new world of exotic plant forms.

This exhibition is dedicated to the artist's brother Steve McHugh. He would have loved it.

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday-Friday, 10am-6pm
  • Saturday, 10am-4pm


  • 455 Mount Eden Road
  • Mount Eden
  • Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland