Art | June 16, 2024 |

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Image courtesy of Jonathan S Hooper

Featured Artist
Jonathan S Hooper

Jonathan S Hooper is an artist whose work encompasses painting, sculpture, photography and film. His 3-dimensional work includes designs for buildings. Born and raised in Cornwall, in the far southwest of the UK, it is from the moors and coast of this elemental and enigmatic peninsula that his work emerges. Having spent 3 years living in Japan in the early 1990s, Hooper is now based in London and represented by leading galleries in both London and Dublin. exhibiting selectively, in the UK and abroad, his work is held in a number of important collections. In response to a recent solo exhibition of Hooper’s work, Guardian art writer Nicholas Wroe explained that “…artists across disciplines have always been inspired by a sense of place to make work that is not only the product of a person, but also of a location. For artist Jonathan S Hooper it is North Cornwall, where he joins the global tradition of human engagement with landscape, while also connecting to a vivid regional history of art.”

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Image courtesy of Jonathan S Hooper

Hooper’s “vivid regional history of art” is, in part, defined by the internationally important group of artists working in St Ives, Cornwall in the post-war period. In particular the colourist Patrick Heron, the landscape painter Peter Lanyon and the Russian constructivist Naum Gabo, who was exiled in St Ives from 1939-1946. Although Hooper might be categorised as a landscape artist, his work is principally concerned with the elements, forces and processes that contribute both directly and indirectly to our experience of landscape. For Hooper landscape is not simply something to be observed but it is something to be in. He sees landscape as a complex matrix of which we are merely constituent parts. Hooper’s paintings are as much about the process as they are about the subject. Paint is worked using a variety of tools, often improvised for a particular purpose or effect. The paint is smeared, scraped, abraded, spattered, combed, poured as well as brushed. Pure colour is allowed to mix on the painting surface rather than the mixing being contrived on a palette.

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Image courtesy of Jonathan S Hooper

This methodology is at times chaotic and random, at others more refined and considered, but it is always tethered to an underlying sense of structure and technical rigour. As visual literacy is increasingly subject to unerring digital multiples and algorithmic interventions Hooper’s work is unashamedly analogue, and in this sense, he is offering resistance to the numbing contingency of screen-based imagery and the passivity that might result from it. Memory is key to Hooper’s work and the layering of paint could be viewed as a metaphor for the laying down of memories. Like witness statements, Hooper’s works exhibit moments of clarity, or apparent clarity, in an overall narrative that is elusive and less certain. Being driven by the need to represent something experienced and, in terms, knowable, Hooper does not consider himself to be an abstract artist. His output may not be easy to reconcile with the readily familiar but it is not intended to be deliberately difficult or recondite.

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Image courtesy of Jonathan S Hooper

Hooper sees the process of painting as a constant negotiation between the desired, the possible and the unpredictable. The artist is the instigator, the craftsman and, ultimately, the editor but the artist does not act alone; the artist initiates the process but is a collaborator in its ultimate outcome. The edges of Hooper’s paintings lay bare the stages in his painting process and exhibit the foundations of the surface. This is deliberate. Hooper has even coined the term “edgescapes” to describe his work. Not only is he saying that these frayed “unfinished” edges are an important part of the painting but he is also challenging the traditional categories of “landscapes” or “seascapes”. Of course, Cornwall itself is an “edgescape”. The term “edgescape” carries a philosophical multi-dimensionality. It does not just allude to the points where air meets sea, or sea meets land but rather it alludes to something other, something liminal; the thin, imperceptible space between perhaps.

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Image courtesy of Jonathan S Hooper

It is evident that Hooper is beguiled by the potential and materiality of paint and embraces its ability to obscure rather than to depict. In this regard, his paintings should not be viewed as pictures but rather as palimpsests. Hooper invites the viewer to look beyond the surface, to sift through their memories and imaginations to find their own comparative reference points. Hooper’s first degree was in engineering and his sculptural works reflect a rigorous understanding of structure and the mechanics of form. Despite this theoretical rigour Hooper’s 3-dimensional works, like his paintings, exhibit a high degree of improvisational spontaneity and poetic freedom. Hooper sees art and science as occupying the same space, the equivocal gap between “why?” and “is”. However, where science is driven by the imperative to bridge this gap, art remains free to revel in uncertainty. Hooper produces works that attempt to describe the ineffable; that are concerned with sensation rather than knowledge.

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Image courtesy of Jonathan S Hooper

Hooper’s output is characterised by series and within these series, he improvises and iterates around and away from an underlying theme. By reworking an original idea in this way the idea becomes the sum total of all of the iterations or improvisations. Each iteration is valid but no single iteration is definitive. This approach to representation is about accumulation rather than replacement. Hooper is currently working on another “sound and vision” project with Italian cellist and composer Riccardo Pes which will be shown at “Festival Blanc” in Pordenone, Italy in the autumn of 2024. Hooper creates works that are both relatable and intriguing. Throughout the multiplicity of his practice, this artist redefines landscape to encapsulate the physical and metaphysical experience of place. Combining intense observation and robust theoretical thinking Hooper’s evocations of time and space become catalysts for imagination; a specific subject becomes a universal object. Hooper depicts the view from the edge.

more. www.jonathanshooper.com

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Image courtesy of Jonathan S Hooper

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