By Andrew Frost…
The ghost of painter Philip Guston makes its presence felt in Matthew Hopkins’s show Bated Breath. The quotes of the American expressionist in Hopkins’s paintings are direct – the patterning of the brick chimneys and the puffing pipes join together in an abstracted figuration where identifiable objects become part of a more generalised landscape. It’s a kind of art making that Hopkins has explored before, and as he has stuck to his limited palette of colours, and boldly outlined if simplified geometry – and an obsession with fantasy heads – Hopkin’s vision overcomes what in the hands of a lesser artist would be just copying – tasteful copying, certainly, but to borrow heavily is to end up with an unpayable debt.
This is a modest show of just a handful of small-scale paintings and two diptychs. Hopkins typically eschews the big painting gesture for the architecture of the reduced square, and makes the most of these limitations. Often this kind of approach tends to cramp many painters and the only hint of this is found in Throat II, a carefully constructed abstract with suggestion of its subject, but lacking in the looseness of the other pictures. Nasal Ascension and Descending Pip Smoker feel enormous despite their reduced size but the hero pictures are Absurd Walls and Severed Heads, the former a picture more in debt to Guston, but the latter a weird cross-section of heads a la See Through Man, and a return to the surreal style the artist has made his own. The magic of Hopkins’s paintings is often hard to pin down, but you can be certain those debts are paid in full.
Until December 22
Gallery 9, Darlinghurst.
Pic: Matthew Hopkins, Severed heads 2012. Acrylic, gel medium and impasto on canvas 84 x 168 cm (diptych). Courtesy the artist and Gallery 9.