Open Frequency 2009: Louise Hopkins selected by Stacy Boldrick

Open Frequency 2009: Louise Hopkins selected by Stacy Boldrick Louise Hopkins, Envelope, 2008. 18 x 17.5 cm (51 x 56 cm framed). Watercolour on envelope

Stacy Boldrick of the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh profiles the work of Louise Hopkins

Louise Hopkins practices a strategic sort of iconoclasm. Starting with pre-printed found surfaces, Hopkins remakes visual imagery through overpainting or repainting, erasing, scratching off or tearing the surface. The form of mark-making for each work is a specific response to the source material. Although she is perhaps most well known for repainting maps and furnishing fabrics, her range of sources extends beyond this, incorporating comic books, sheet music, ruled paper, photographs, and commercial advertising: in short, the visual imagery of everyday experience. With 'Box' (2008) and 'Envelope' (2008), Hopkins uses objects themselves to draw attention to the act of painting and the relationship between mark-making and objecthood.

In her work, Hopkins breaks the relationship between the signifier and what is originally signified, but it is the effect of the break that is most intriguing: how that break redefines visual territory, slowing the viewer down to consider the implications of the work. Hopkins’ work encourages the viewer to look harder, and to think harder, both about the cultural context of its source - a familiar, often overlooked visual form - and about the process through which the artist transforms the image and the information it registers.

This visual territory makes meanings that relate to the source material’s original function, and that also operate more conceptually. Over the course of her career, Hopkins has made a number of works using maps as the primary support. In 'Europe Map (Green)' (2003), she covers over bodies of water with generic land, bridging geographical borders to produce a paradoxical sense of freedom and claustrophobia. In 'Black Sea' (2003), Hopkins uses black ink to obscure land and sea, leaving visible only the names of seas (and the odd body of land). Such works problematise concepts of nations, national identities, orientation to the land and location.

Other found sources also become reconfigured territories: back becomes front, negative space is rendered positive. In works such as 'Relief (739)' (2005) and 'Untitled (1212)' (2000), Hopkins stretches the back side of furnishing fabric like a canvas and meticulously repaints the foliage or figurative design that bleeds through. In the space between each design, Hopkins paints dark, dense strokes that seem to grow out of the patterns themselves; the self-contained order of the mechanical print becomes wild, overgrown, alive. Likewise, in works on graph paper such as 'Grid (Grey)' (2003) and 'Untitled (476)' (2003), Hopkins releases lines from the cage of the conventionally unwavering grid. By contrast, Hopkins uses the structures of comic books and graphic novels to take away animation and destabilize their forms. Action, speech and narrative give way to the space containing them.

More recently, advertising imagery has become source material for Hopkins. With watercolour and acrylic, Hopkins transforms magazine pages into paintings, unsettling conventional expectations of consumer objects in relation to consumption and use value. In '16 Cabinets' (2008), rows of cabinets become united as individual bulges in a long winding intestine-like form. In other works, she brings in bodies to animate the advertised object, challenging assumptions about its function. In 'Saw' (2008), five different saws advance towards the viewer; Hopkins’ addition of decapitated figures turns ordinary household objects into grisly weapons. In these works, Hopkins subverts the advertised image’s function – of one intended to stimulate economic consumption of consumer goods – to privilege visual consumption. The artist’s interventions invent new visual territory.

Stacy Boldrick, 2009

Artist's biography 

Louise Hopkins (b. 1965, England) is based in Glasgow. After gaining her MFA at Glasgow School of Art and her BA at Newcastle Polytechnic, Hopkins was awarded the Jerwood Painting prize in 1997. Hopkins won a Creative Scotland award in 2002, and was one of six artists selected to represent Scotland in the 2007 Venice Biennale. From the early part of her career, selected solo exhibitions include the Tramway Project Room, Glasgow (1996) and the Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra (1992), Artconnexion, Lille (1997), Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan (1998), Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, California (2001) and doggerfisher, Edinburgh (2003). More recent solo exhibitions include Freedom of Information, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2005), and Harness, Mummery + Schnelle, London (2008).

Hopkins has exhibited widely. Selected group exhibitions include: Comfort Zones, Bury St. Edmunds Art Gallery (2008), Doubleuse, The Nunnery, London (2007), Limits, Andrew Mummery Gallery London (curated by Maria Chevska) (2006), Mythomania, The Metropole Galleries, Folkestone (2005),Words, Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, Arts Council Collection National Touring Exhibition (2003), Any where, Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bard College, Annadale-on-Hudson, New York (2003), New: recent acquisitions of contemporary art, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2003), Here and Now: Scottish Art 1990-2001, Dundee Contemporary Arts and venues in Dundee and Aberdeen (2001), Open Country, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne (2001), A Day Like Any Other, Kulturhaus, Stavangar, Norway (curated by Francis McKee) (2000), 45th Salon de Montrouge , Montrouge, France and Centre for Contemporary Art, Lisbon (2000), On Paper, Stalke Galleri, Copenhagen (1999) and Nettwerk Glasgow, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo, Norway (1998).

About Stacy Boldrick

Stacy Boldrick is Research and Interpretation Manager at The Fruitmarket Gallery, where she is responsible for programming talks and seminars and for writing and producing interpretative materials for exhibitions.

After completing an MA at the University of Pittsburgh and a PhD in History of Art at the University of Manchester, Stacy was Research Co-ordinator for the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, where she curated Homes for the Soul: Micro-architecture in Medieval and Contemporary Art and, with David Park and Paul Williamson, she curated Wonder: Painted Sculpture from Medieval England. From 2002 to 2007, Stacy co-ordinated research projects between institutional partners in VARIE (Visual Arts Research Institute Edinburgh) and was an occasional lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. With Richard Clay she edited Iconoclasm: Contested Objects, Contested Terms (Ashgate, 2007). Stacy is an Honorary Fellow in History of Art at the University of Edinburgh, and writes about medieval and contemporary art.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.