Frieda Hughes’s poems and paintings reflect her early years in Devon and Yorkshire, and her later experiences when living in London, Australia, and most recently, Wales. From childhood, writing and painting have been the two driving forces behind her commitment to life. They first came together in her illustration of two of her seven published children’s books, and through her cartoons – she was cartoonist for the West Australian Magazine when living in Western Australia in the early 90s.
In 2002 Frieda Hughes received a NESTA Award to undertake her work on Forty-five, a summary of her life to that age in 45 poems and a 225 foot long, 4 foot high, 45 panel abstract depicting the emotional landscape of her life. This was the beginning of a growing collaboration between her poetry and her artwork, which is now further realised in Alternative Values, which includes 60 full-colour plates of both her abstract and her semi-figurative work. The paintings were shown at the Belgravia Gallery, London, where the book was launched in October 2015.
‘What do we mean to each other and how are we valued? It’s all about perspective; many of these poems explore relationships, attitudes, and how we look back at our childhoods with the eyes of adults, so often having lost that sense of what it was actually like to be a child, when we stumbled into our future with fear, hope or trepidation. Here, I subject my own history and childhood to examination in respect of the way I see others, and myself.’ – Frieda Hughes on Alternative Values
‘This large-format, handsome volume is a double gift: each of Frieda Hughes's intense, powerful poems is accompanied by a vibrant abstract painting, expressing this prodigiously gifted poet's visual interpretation of her own words. The cumulative effect is extraordinary, invigorating and sometimes painful, as the daughter of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath bravely lays bare some of the pain she has endured.’ – Bel Mooney, Daily Mail (Christmas Poetry Books)
‘… a vibrant combination of words and visual art, often raw, occasionally too abstract (in the case of the poems) but always moving. Inevitably, there are echoes and shadows of her dead parents, poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, but these only serve to enrich a distinctive voice that is very much Frieda’s own – brave without being strident, unflinching in its observation of pain but without self-pity. A beautiful book to treasure and reread.’ – Juanita Coulson, The Lady
‘Frieda Hughes is a fearless traveller and more than the sum of her famous and very gifted parents, she is her own person; and that is what these poems and paintings consistently evoke and express… This is a mature voice, a human voice, and a voice that has wisdom in it.’ – Jay Ramsay, Caduceus
‘The paintings are bright and vibrant, liquid and flowing, torn and dismembered, organic and alive, full of movement and colour. The poems are so skilfully crafted as to appear effortless models of clarity, the triumph of art over chaos. The paintings face and acknowledge her demons, staring them straight in the face; the poems rise above them…. Expect to be moved, expect to laugh, expect to be uplifted.’ – Maggie Butt, ARTEMISpoetry
Click on VIEW EXTRACT to see some of the paintings with their poems.
Frieda Hughes reads from Alternative Values at Ledbury
Frieda Hughes reads and introduces a selection of poems – with their paintings – from her book Alternative Values: poems & paintings: ‘Wedding Poem for You’, ‘One Last Kiss’, ‘Love Poem for a Motorbike’, ‘The Rolling Car’, ‘After Cheltenham Festival’, ‘For the Living Left Behind’, ‘About Loss’ and ‘Alternative Values’. Filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, this video shows part of her reading at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 6 July 2016.
60 colour illustrations