Matthew Hopkins’ Heads

March 27th 2011


When I heard about Matthew Hopkins third solo show Heads at Gallery 9, I was excited. If his band is anything to judge by, I thought, this exhibition should be quite a trip. Hopkins plays in Sydney’s Naked on the Vague, a four-piece that play a brand of balls-out no-wave psychedelic punk-pop, heavy with distortion, delay, and industrial layering.


Hopkins’ art pieces are not dissimilar to his musical outputs – they could almost be perfect pop if it wasn’t for their grotesque, disturbing and ghoulish underbelly. Disembodied cartoon-like heads float unwillingly through flat nowheres; gaseous heads form and reform around static and menacing faces; limbs appear and disappear, eerie reminders of the bodies totally absent from the show; and a soundtrack of looped voices, percussive samples and dense synths haunts the space.


The first thing I spot as I step into the gallery is a series of sculpted heads, paired to face each other and accompanied by a soundtrack of distorted philosophical statements, as though engaged in some interminable argument about the nature of being. Their bulbous noses seem to slip off their faces; everything about them, in fact, seems in a state of decay, slippage, or deformity. The mesmerising sense of surreality begins early.


The remaining three rooms feature paintings, a video work and etchings, each of which continues to build the sense that you’ve entered some kind of strange Labyrinth-like dream, populated with deformed and ambiguous characters. The video work particularly evokes this other-worldly menace, as a minimal face stares out at you, and heads form like clouds around it, always shifting and stretching, never quite staying put long enough to reduce the unnerving quality of the footage.


The tone of this show seems somehow particularly apt for the change of season, as things get dimmer, yet also fill with that great wintry mystery. Heads is a little like New York in winter – dark, cold, a little bit gloomy, but with a beauty all of its own, as smoke twists out of subway vents, fills your breath and is mirrored by thick snow clouds in the sky. Get along and embrace the season’s spirit; Heads serves as a perfect reminder of how boring it would be to have summer all the time.


Heads is showing at Gallery 9 (9 Darley St, Darlinghurst) until April 16th.


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