With an upcoming show on the 13th August at David Krut Projects, entitled ”Permanent Culture”, Stephen Hobbs has been a rather busy man.Whilst prints have been running through the press non-stop, we sat with Stephen in the hopes of gaining further insight into his preparations for the show.
What modes of aesthetic manipulation do you make use of in order to articulate your narrative?
Historically video and photography have served as the primary means of documenting and interpreting particular urban conditions, forms, situations and so forth. However with the increased work in the David Krut Print workshop, drawing and collage is serving as an important starting point for the development of a body of print works. Returning to drawing has provided a foundation for rethinking a lot of my practice where various options in sculpture, video and installation are possible and relevant to my expressive goals.
You are working with print as a medium for the upcoming show, how would you incorporate new age techniques with traditional techniques to allow for a meeting of contemporary nostalgia?
Indeed there is a nostalgic dimension to the image making process in the printmaking. To some extent this works well for my current body of work, where finding visual equivalents in aquatint, hard ground and dry point for military defenses and camouflage of the last century, translates well – I think, when mapped onto contemporary readings of urban design and architecture. The ‘mapping onto’ part to date has involved, video installation, actual mapping and photography to create prompts and connections for the viewer.
There is a deliberate use of disruptive lines and blurred patterns in your work. Could you expand on this?
This is certainly a hangover from my photography in the mid to late 90’s – of buildings reflected in corresponding glass curtain buildings. At that time I was interested in the aesthetic effect of the glass curtain grid disrupting and collapsing the rigidity of the building reflected. This was a kind of architectural camouflage where buildings appear and disappear. The body of print works for Permanent Culture, have been inspired by the Newlands Forest in Cape Town where the first version of this exhibition took place. The forest canopy, patterns, shapes, shadow and light are the natural camofleurs for the environment and when occurring over small buildings and structures, perform similarly to the glass curtain visual disruptions referred to earlier.
You have spent a lot of time at DKW which is located in Johannesburg CBD. What are the politics specific to the area that you have encountered, in regards to the urban planning and displacement of many through selective inclusion and thus exclusion for others has this influenced your work in any way?
Images courtesy of stephenhobbs.net
In my work at the Trinity Session and with Marcus Neustetter we have been very fortunate to receive commissions that through our various partnerships with artists and artists activist organisations, such as Sticky Situations, Platinum Sketch, Boundless Café and so on, we’ve been able to work with artist communities and residents of Jeppestown, developing films and events under the title of Superdream, that have helped us to understand the living conditions and rich cultural and identity practices in the greater area. Knowledge is power and this work brings us closer to understanding the realities of assisted gentrification, and displacement in the area. It is very important to note that local government is an important steak holder in this debate, in terms of the provision of affordable housing solutions as one example of responsibility. We need to get the story straight!
Camouflage is represented largely in your work, could you explain what it represents to you and what you regard to be modern day camouflage in 2015?
Camouflage, is how we chose to dress in the morning, what makeup and perfume to apply and on and on. Hence modern camouflage is a psycho social issue as much as it is a military concern with the development of technologies that are in line with modern day forms of heat detection, infrared, satellite and motion tracking, intelligent skins etc. But if we go back to the turn of the last century, well known fine artists were employed to create and design deception in the battlefield. It is fascinating to me, that if you are an artist, filmmaker, production designer, programmer and were enrolled into the army, your skills may well be applied in the construction of an alternative reality designed to confuse the enemy.
You spent some time doing archival research for your previous show and it forms part of your process work, what was the most shocking find while conducting your research?
That Hitler invented the sex doll, to reduce his soldiers exposure to STD’s in France. Less shocking, and more astonishing really. War is certainly the mother of invention!
What do you view to be modern everyday day battles and wars, faced by the art industry?
Money. Status. Ownership.
2015 welcomes you into your 21st year as a professional, established, successful artist. How would you reflect on this?
I’ve always been deeply interested in Johannesburg, the city I live in. Depending on the layers you choose to interrogate, this city – as your portal – could keep you busy reflecting on the rest of the world, forever! And so the work follows.
Permanent Culture by Stephen Hobbs will open on the 13th of August 2015 at David Krut Projects, Parkwood, Johannesburg.