James Hopkins
15/03/2006 > 13/05/2006

Opening on 15/03/2006, from 7 pm to 9 pm

British artist JAMES HOPKINS uses eminently rational processes to create art that confounds viewers' logical expectations. He slyly transforms everyday objects, rendering them dysfunctional via slight alterations, imbuing them with the power of self-reflective commentary, converting them into altogether different items, nudging them toward an 'impossible' state that produces an astonished incredulity in those who behold them. HOPKINS' sophisticated visual illusions are engaging, but his works also hint at the epistemological uprooting that follows from the discovery that sight, our most relied-upon sense in the gallery, can be untrustworthy.

For Wasted Youth, his second show at Cosmic Galerie, JAMES HOPKINS' presents a collection of new sculptures under the common theme of recreation and excess.

As a witty introduction to the show, Echo is a work melting language et visual perception: the lettering "ECHO", displayed on a shelf reflects in a mirror. All the letters being symmetric, their reflection also reads "ECHO", as a visual and immediate definition of the word.

In the main room, Double Check displays on the same principle the word "CHECK". Through its reflection, the repetition of "CHECK" justifies the play on word in the title and invites the viewer to look at things twice.

Giving its title to the show, Wasted Youth consists of a set of shelves filled with objects and items associated with the pleasures and excesses of adolescence. In the way these items are put together, some having been cut into or peeled back, and through the positive and negative space of perspective appears the image of an oversize death head. As in Hans HOLBEIN the Younger's famous canvas The Ambassadors (1533), JAMES HOPKINS brings together two pictorial traditions from the Renaissance: on the one hand the anamorphosis – where an image is hidden in a distorted perspective; on the other hand the vanitas – a still life representing objects that symbolise the fragility and briefness of life, amongst which the human skull, and inviting the viewer to meditate on the futility of human pleasures when death is a certain end. This tridimensional memento mori ("remember you will die") is at the same time transposed in the world of an adolescent teenager and comments upon a narrative: the objects chosen are specific are the remnants of a party gone wrong where excess and self indulgence has met with consequence.

Also an anamorphosis, Sliding the Scale shows the artist's interest with cartoon culture. The work is a grand piano which has been distorted in order to visually encapsulate the sound and movement associated with music, as in Disney's classic Fantasia, in which inanimate objects are given life and personality.

Kicks in the Park comprises of a park bench which is kept in a fragile equilibrium by beer bottles acting as counter weight. Between triviality and erudition this work references the mischievous and destructive time spent by teenagers getting drunk in the park whilst also acknowledging balance as being one of the fundamental concerns within the tradition of sculpture, here paradoxically achieved through bottles of alcohol.

Focal Length is a spirit bottle set sideways on a wooden tripod, looking like an early type of viewing apparatus. For who looks through the neck of the bottle, a concealed series of mirrors set within it produce a kaleidoscopic view of the world outside and a strong feeling of drunkenness, as a take on Oscar WILDE's witticism about 'lying in the gutter yet looking at the stars'.

Acid Rain is a standard garden greenhouse whose mirror walls turn it into a kaleidoscopic room. The viewer's visual path is reflected into an enigmatic effect of infinity and repetition. It is a humorous fusion of the familiar image of a green house and the disturbing experience of side-show theatrics, between climate control concerns and visual cloning.

In a second room, Kyle, Kenny, Stan and Cartman applies anamorphosis to popular contemporary imagery: apparently a random composition of plastic shapes and colours, the sculpture, seen from a certain angle, turns out to be a representation of the familiar cartoon characters from the satirical animation South Park – ironic and familiar personification of a wasted youth.