House Arrest In Pink | Stephen Hobbs

Dates: 26 May– 23 June  2023
Days/Times: Tues-Fri, 10am-5pm
Location: Studio 12, Backwater Artists Group, Wandesford Quay
Opening Reception: 25 May, 6pm

Since moving to Ireland in December of 2019 and returning to SA in July of 2021, Hobbs’s practice has undergone a significant revision; where his approach to art making – while remaining within the conceptual realm of aesthetics and war, psychology and the body, and art and architecture – was tested by the hard lockdowns experienced in rural Cork. Freedom to take walks and enjoy the abundance of forests, rivers and farmlands were a privilege to escape to, yet the imposition of 2km and 5km travelling distances imposed a Truman Show-like reality on our minds and bodies and a false sense of safety within an entirely arbitrary circumference.

Across the planet, our bodies were subjected to numerous distancing methods as the deliverology logics of the pandemic sought to make sense of isolation tactics to curtail the movement of human beings and the spread of the virus. And the cumulative fear factor that ran in parallel sent the mind and body into varying states of paralysis.

The three months enjoyed preceding the closing of schools in mid-march of 2020, we considered a gentle landing and for the first few months into the first lockdown, we, like many enjoyed the total slow-down on the planet; offering much-needed respite from lives in perpetual motion.

Access to art, hardware and gardening supplies stores was tracked constantly in the hope of finding a gap to get ‘real’ materials. Everything else was produced with the tools that came over by suitcase and later by sea. And the one mechanism that remained most reliable was online shopping, delivery times were sometimes an issue, but soon we were accumulating as many found materials as alternative-making media.

The house we moved into was perfect, 4 bedrooms, a fireplace in the kitchen/lounge and main lounge, plenty of soft and hard outdoor space, a small garage and a pretty view. The dining room was converted into an office and studio, nothing could be nailed to the walls, so stilt-propped boards were installed. We now had a number of indoor and outdoor options for making things. Very soon we learned that the house we were renting was more commonly known as a bungalow and its economically built form was the result of a rural housing revolution started in the early 1970s by architect Jack Fitzsimons – whose one-stop housing plan templates and approval processes fast tracked rural Irish families into more dignified modern housing. His iconic publication Bungalow Bliss is a best seller in Ireland, first published in July 1971 and now in its 13th edition.

Our bungalow and the footprint of land it occupied soon became rehearsal grounds for an artistic war on confinement. This of course was never the plan, Ireland was to be our new home, Johannesburg our second and we had big dreams for a variety of new futures, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Subsequent to Hobbs’ return to South Africa he has reconciled and reconfigured remnants of memories, actions, and installations and made-things into two bespoke exhibitions. The first: A Short life with Bungalow Bliss at David Krut Projects, Johannesburg comprising new monotypes, limited edition linocuts and mixed media silkscreened works, and myriad mixed media ‘Box’ works, accompanied by a series of Plexi-glass assemblages.

The second: Shallow Sleep at his studio in Maboneng, listed as part of the Johannesburg Art Fair Open City Programme, immersed the audience in a series of situations expressed through a large-scale painting installation, combined with found objects, video and archival references to ‘a short life’ in Ireland.

Through cross-pollination of Hobbs’s ‘Box’ Works, his recent installations in Johannesburg and visual sampling from Jack Fitzsimons’s iconic publication, Hobbs will adapt Studio 12 into an immersive installation drawing from this 3 year period of extreme shifts in living and lifestyle conditions.

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