John Hurrell – 21 October, 2011
The Vlad series is entertaining with its images of alarmed, darting eyes and implied madness, but the gags, brooding dark tones and incessantly severe triangles lose their punch quickly. The rest of the show is far more nuanced.
28 September - 22 October 2011
With this show Julian Hooper continues his method of constructing different thematic groups, or suites embodying certain compositional procedures, and presenting them all jumbled up together. That way you are forced to figure out the unifying connections within this exhibition and to earlier ones.
And typically surrealism is a major aspect, though not the only mindset. There are for example, geometrically patterned Pacific and eastern European ‘folk art’ hybrids too that seem vaguely like playing cards but featuring comically furtive Vlad the Impalers instead of Kings, Queens or Jacks.
The Vlad series is entertaining with its images of alarmed, darting eyes and implied madness, but the gags, brooding dark tones and incessantly severe triangles lose their punch quickly. The rest of the show is far more nuanced, for the surrealism includes some great ‘standing’ figures of vertical fish with heads of vegetables or fruit precariously stacked on their snouts. There are also domestic interiors with fireplaces surrounded by oddly shaped, animal-like furniture, and Hooper’s vague interpretations of various famous paintings like The Ambassadors, Las Meninas or the Arnolfini Wedding. His images of hovering linked up shapes have an organic designery precision like that of say Lari Pittman, but much less busy.
Hooper’s best work is surrealism that flip-flops into abstraction. He knows how to exploit curvaceous edges, placing arabesque forms within domestic interiors to gain a lyrically erotic charge, utilizing the blobby shapes of Miro, Gorky and Arp. Other paintings clearly beholden to Magritte or Dali are comparatively clumsy because Hooper’s talent basically is emphasising the picture plane by sensitively treating its surface with thin paint; not rendering realism and spatial depth. A very fine exhibition where tremulously teetering images take their time in revealing their wit.
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