You really do have to look twice at the work of British artist James Hopkins, to check your eyes aren’t deceiving you, and to admire the deceptively clever ideas he seems to explore effortlessly in his art. Mortality, time, balance, booze and, ultimately, perception are what he questions in his work. Realising complicated visual illusions in a seemingly simple way is Hopkins’ forte, although serious time and trouble goes into every piece. The painstakingly balanced chairs and tables are actually balanced, there’s no trickery there, and the alcohol is carefully measured into the bottles to counterbalance the pieces. Anamorphic sculptures are also a favourite of his – as the viewer moves around seemingly randomly arranged objects, at one specific point they all align to reveal their true subject (usually a set of Pop Culture cartoon characters, like The Simpsons or the main protagonists from South Park). In the case of Cat & Mouse or Tom & Jerry there is an added level of complexity as each of these random objects represents something the cartoon characters tried to maim or kill each other with in the TV seriess: a gun, a knife, a bomb and so on.
His warped, extended musical instrument series, the first of which was finished in 2001 whilst he was still a student at Goldsmiths College, also play with your sense of perspective, and owe a serious debt to the creepy stretched skull that Hans Holbein The Younger included in his iconic painting The Ambassadors. In fact Holbein’s influence is further felt in another of Hopkins’ projects too, his Vanitas series. Here, objects belonging to imagined archetypes are arranged on shelves, revealing the face of a skull when seen from a distance. The attention to detail and choice of products is brilliant, and Hopkins’ work makes any attempt at self-definition or individuality through the objects we acquire seem ultimately futile, since we’re all destined for the grave in the end.