The Interior by Natalya Hughes

For ‘The Interior’ Brisbane-based artist Natalya Hughes pays tribute to Sigmund Freud’s model of psychoanalysis with the creation of a beautifully decorative and immersive treatment room loaded with symbolic gesture and a specific line of inquiry that asks us to consider if “the talking cure can help solve society’s ‘problem’ with women?”

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength” – Sigmund Freud.

The Interior installation view Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2022. Photograph: Charlie Hillhouse

‘The Interior’ is a provocative and participatory installation richly endowed with colour, symbolic patterning, motifs inspired by Freud’s case studies such as Wolf Man and Rat Man, mythological-based 3D printed sculptural objets d’art, a painted mural, woven rugs, curtains, and a series of quirky yet perfectly functional custom-made and intricately detailed upholstered furniture pieces that invite audiences to become embraced in the contours and bosom of the female form while playing analyst or patient in a space where collective and unconscious biases can be explored.

The Interior is a fascinating project that the artist hopes will inspire meaningful conversation around a more equitable consciousness of how women are perceived and represented.

Deeply interested in the representation of women through art history and the possibilities of Freud’s ‘talking cure’ as a way to reimagine the idea, place, and existence of women in contemporary times, Natalya says, “It’s not so much a decorative interpretation of Freud’s treatment room. He was so interested in all of those decorative objects that were part of his space. He was so careful when it came to that room there’s nothing cold about it. It’s filled with objects that you can’t dismiss as just décor. They’re a series of signs that are important for treatment and for psychoanalysis. I’m taking that up and doing it slightly differently in a more contemporary way – not transposing the exact decorative forms but the logic of that.”

The Interior installation view Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2022. Photograph: Charlie Hillhouse

“Everything in my room is also a sign that communicates something about what psychoanalysis has on offer. Everything is very carefully chosen. There’s not a single thing in there that hasn’t been reasoned as part of that space and thought through as part of the conversation about how we see women and how we might see them differently, and how we might get past some of the issues that we’re having.

It is pretty woman heavy and I think that there are indications that the maternal body in particular is the one that you know is key. I don’t know that Freud would have had the capacity to talk about that, it just wasn’t part of psychoanalysis in the same way it is now.”

We interviewed Natalya ahead of the premiere opening of ‘The Interior’ about her arts practice and the processes she engages for painting, pattern making, and 3D sculpting as well as the motivations behind this major installation project, and what she’s planning to produce in the future.

Read the full interview here.

‘The Interior’ curated by Tulleah Pearce is Natalya’s most ambitious project to date and is on at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane until 1 October. The extraordinary treatment room will be touring until 2026. In 2023 ‘The Interior’ will take the floor at Queensland’s Logan Art Gallery and Warwick Art Gallery before it heads south to Lismore Regional Gallery in New South Wales. More venues across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia will be announced in time.

The Interior installation view Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2022. Photograph: Charlie Hillhouse

Natalya also has an exhibition at Sullivan+Strumpf in Sydney from 22 September to 15 October 2022 titled These Girls of the Studio, and is an exhibition of works which look at the relationship between Modernist painters and their anonymous women subjects and includes the artist’s response to the work and studio of artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

The development and delivery of ‘The Interior’ is made possible by the Michela & Adrian Fini Artist Fellowship awarded to Natalya Hughes by the Sheila Foundation with support from the Australia Council for the Arts. The exhibition is to be documented and celebrated in a publication featuring three series of Natalya’s most recent bodies of work.

Institute of Modern Art