Since the early 1990s, Louise Hopkins has used furnishing fabrics, maps, song sheets, comics and pages of magazines to create works that address the process and problems of representation. Her project is to transform existing surfaces into paintings or drawings, taking them from the everyday world and giving them a new status. With an experimental approach, she starts with her own physical gesture to explore colour, form and mark-making, using pencil, ink or paint, and often produces several versions before fixing on the final composition. The relationship between the original and new surface is ambiguous. The printed materials she chooses often have social or political associations. The certainty that maps, shopping magazines or manufactured textiles might offer seems to be questioned when they are transformed into a painting or drawing.
Among Hopkins’s earliest works are those produced on furnishing fabrics, such as Aurora 13 (1996). Although prepared in the same way a canvas would be made ready for a traditional painting – stretched over a wooden frame and painted with layers of translucent gum – the found fabric is reversed to present a shadow of the ‘real’ print. Hopkins has meticulously painted over this ghostly image, leaving a section exposed. On first glance it is not clear what has been painted, and what existed before.
Untitled (169) (2006) is one of many map pieces Hopkins has made. She has applied ink over a world map, developing strokes in different directions and leaving the names of oceans and countries intact. With these names transformed into islands in a sea of ink, our understanding of geography is upended as new relationships are revealed. Hopkins’s works suggest a chain of contrasts - between mass-produced and handcrafted, reality and artifice, positive and negative, surface and depth, hidden and exposed. In an increasingly fast-paced, image-led world, Hopkins’s interventions are labour-intensive and time-consuming. She slows down time, inviting us to absorb the information she eradicates or exposes through the physical act of painting. In this way, she makes us question the things we see – not only in her work, but in the world around us.