The magical world of a garden at night….
Imagine a ‘world’ of darkness that is disconcerting and mysterious. This is the scene I discover when I enter into the land of Night Garden, not the BBC children’s television programme but a retrospective exhibition of paintings by the artist Vincent Hawkins.
Night Garden is the name of a series of new work by the artist showing at Sid Motion Gallery, South Bermondsey. Since 2018 Hawkins has been painting works inspired by his garden at night.
The second exhibition in a new gallery space at Hatcham Road, the show explores relationships between figurative landscapes and abstract surfaces. It is Vincent Hawkins’ first solo show in the UK.
Hawkins (b.1959) has exhibited widely with solo shows in Chicago and Paris. He was shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Prize (2006), was a finalist in the John Moores Painting Prize (2012) and a Prize Winner in the John Moores Painting Prize 24 (2006). Vincent Hawkins was first shown by Sid Motion in a group show in 2016.
Night Garden features recent paintings of the artist’s own garden at night-time. The canvases remind me of works by George Blacklock and Howard Hodgkin but without the vibrant colours (Hawkins rapidly layers paint with inky black brush strokes or sketches white lines onto dark backgrounds). In Vincent Hawkins’ studio different types of paint are overlayered – so acrylic is applied first as a base layer, then oil paint. He doesn’t think of himself as an abstract painter but someone who describes real things, such as ‘bodies’, ‘wings’, ‘limbs’, ‘garden fences’ and ‘trees’, which I suppose is part of the haptic language that is to do with real life – what the eye actually sees. For Hawkins, this is a process of revealing figurative landscapes whist maintaining abstract surfaces. To quote the gallery catalogue: ‘Once your eyes adjust, as it were, a dense backdrop of a domestic landscape starts to appear. The black surfaces reveal depth and even multicolour, knobs, posts, trestles can be made out, but their perspective warped, allowing a sense of mystery to exist’.
I visited Hawkins’ exhibition last Friday and was struck by his ability to release forms into the environment rather than to contain them within the edge of the canvas. Indeed, as you look at each dark surface, you allow your mind to relax and find yourself exiting through the gallery wall into the space beyond the building.
There are examples of paper studies here too – they look like starting points for the paintings on canvas, yet they are works in their own right. Each enormous piece of paper is folded, painted on both sides and cut. They are quite organic structures that obscure, hide and reverse what’s underneath, which adds to the mystery.
Sid Motion gallery have formally announced that they are representing Vincent Hawkins and I really look forward to seeing more as I am a great fan of his artwork. I hope you are too!
Alexandra Baraitser (curator, artist and founder of The Bricklayers Brunch Artists Network)
‘Night Garden’ is on until 15th June 2019. Sid Motion Gallery, 24a Penarth Centre, Hatcham Road, SE15 1TR Open: Thurs-Sat, 12-6pm Sundays by appointment.