From his studio, an unassuming garden shed on the outskirts of Leeds, Phill Hopkins unravels narratives from our news. Using media stories, often depicting world situations, political events and places of conflict, he attempts, through his art, to make sense of what he encounters.
He works with materials discarded and found. He digs into surfaces, drips and daubs and obscures; dignifying, redeeming and resurrecting abandoned and everyday things. He’s continually re-creating; he breathes new life into them.
As Phill says, “pieces of melamine discarded from old kitchens, offcuts of plywood with the penciled workings-out of a joiner, household paints and varnish, water-based gloss conflicting with part-used tubes of oil paints…these materials resonate with me, I know and recognise this stuff. I understand it as a kind of archaeology of the present. When these are used in the form of subject they present themselves as something that is left ,or indeed, ghost-like…”
Themes and motifs recur throughout Hopkins’ work, they are picked up, played with, reworked, and then left alone. Images of houses, as Derek Horton notes, “remind us simultaneously of a place of refuge and a place of confinement. They signify both the private home of the ‘nuclear family’ and the social space of the housing estate, embodying both the separateness of the individual and the uniformity of the mass.” They also represent Hopkins’ ongoing artistic excavation of his childhood home in Bristol.
Meanwhile, blizzards of words – on book pages, in brochures and on paint charts – disappear beneath blankets of snowy-white paint; and what Hopkins (who has always struggled with dyslexia) leaves exposed reveals potential new meanings.
Drones and stealth bombers fly across wallpaper backdrops and impose themselves upon aspirational magazine images; temporary gaswork fencing and drawings of a doomed sports centre recontextualize the flyers collected by Hopkins, the phone masts and looming communications towers of Cookridge turn more paint charts into skylines.
In Phill’s work, ideas are layered and lost and rediscovered and revisited – there are deep rewards there for the viewer who’s prepared to invest some time and immerse themselves in it. And so, punctuated by text lifted from the artist’s email conversations with curator Si Smith, this exhibition brings together drawings, paintings, photographs, prints, constructions and collages from the past ten years, showcasing Hopkins’ prolific outpouring of engaging and thought-provoking art.
Phill Hopkins was born in Bristol in 1961 and has been an artist based in Leeds since graduating from Goldsmiths College, London in 1985. He exhibits both nationally and internationally, with recent shows at Leeds’ own BasementArtsProject, Charlie Smith London and Galerie You, Canada.
1 MARCH – 26 APRIL
Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10am-4pm
Thursday 1 March, 6-9pm