Hooper’s recent watercolour works disturb the presumed legibility of imagery by evoking the multifaceted symbolism of the Greek goddess, Hekate. This sleight of hand sees ribbons as fluctuating pathways and Y-junctions, while larger scale watercolours appear as jigsaws of sliced geodes and cut aggregates of dense rock formations. In both instances, Hooper has constructed the patterns and compositions by repeating profile silhouettes of her daughter, grandmother, adopted sister and herself. Once noticed, these facial profiles behave as discrete patterning devices and as detectable code. Hooper references the polymath, philosopher and intellectual Roger Caillois, whose La Lecture des Pierres, 1970, catalogued a materialist mysticism in the magical reading of stones. Caillois’ decipherment of images within naturally occurring forms is one of personal projection, overlaying a pattern, system and signification to natural phenomena. In Hooper’s use of the profile, the embedded image is both a personal means of apprehension and a configured optic.
Claire Hooper’s watercolour works on paper employ the medium through a process of layering and revealing, exploring tonal shifts arising from the transparency and interaction of pigments. In several works from 2020, such as Profundo Verde, Hooper employs the format of a diptych that can be assembled in two different arrangements. This system, in which the work can be turned around on itself, playfully explores the possibilities between choice and constraint.
Clay as Bread and Dust as Wine, 2016, explores the Mesopotamian myth ‘The Descent of Innana to the Underworld’. The large-scale, site-specific installation brings to life an imagined temple to the goddess Ereshkigal, at Kutha in Northern Iraq. Though recognised by successive generations of Sumerian, Assyrian and Aramaic cultures to be the entrance to the underworld, this site has so far eluded archaeologists. Hooper’s installation alludes to columns, entryways and decorative wall panels, while never offering a complete image of the structure. They imagine the whole through fragments, while suggesting the emergence of new meaning and purpose through these very fragments.
In Claire Hooper’s moving image works, the British tradition of documentary encounters elements deriving from Greek mythology. Her epic films focus on figures in precarious social circumstances and their entanglement in restrictive systems. These contemporary narratives negotiate collective social situations with parable-like, mythological enhancement. Interchangeable elements from everyday life, recorded in the narrative fashion of documentary footage, are charged with theatrical passages in which performance appears as an incursion into reality.
Nyx, 2010, which is named after the goddess of night, follows a young Kurdish man in the Berlin subway who returns home after a long night. In a state of delirium, the young man encounters the figure of Thanatos, the god of death, his twin brother Hypnos, the god of sleep, as well as Pasithea, the goddess of relaxation and hallucination. Numerous cultural conflicts arise in these encounters on the subway, which seemingly mutate into a kind of underworld.
Exhibitions at Hollybush Gardens
Claire Hooper: Nach Spandau
21 November – 21 December 2008
Interview by Ian Hunt, Flash Art, March 2016
Claire Hooper: Clay as Bread and Dust as Wine
Review by Caroline Douglas, Contemporary Art Society, February 2016
Claire Hooper’s ‘Eris: The Path of ER’
Feature by Thomas Morgon Evans, LUX Biennial of Moving Images Journal, May 2012
Claire Hooper: NIX AOIDE ERIS
Mumok catalogue, November 2011
Review: Claire Hooper at Hollybush Gardens, London
Review by Gilda Williams, Artforum, Vol. 47 No. 8, March 2009
Review by Martin Herbert, ArtReview, December 2007
Review: Claire Hooper, Victim, Zazie Press
Review by Sally O’Reilly, Art Monthly, No. 294, March 2006
Claire Hooper (b. 1978, UK) lives and works in Marseille, France. Informed by mythology and sociology, Hooper’s practice comprises painting, textile, moving image, installation and writing. Negotiating the interchange between internal and external terrains, Hooper’s work navigates ancient sites, cultures and narratives, tracing their resonance with contemporary experience and feminist discourse. Hooper’s recent mural paintings elaborate her interest in painting-as-installation and the phenomenology of narrative and language — both its construction and affect.
Recent solo exhibitions include Hekate, Hollybush Gardens, London (2021); Claire Hooper, The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art; She Knocked Aggressively at The Door, She Shouted Aggressively at the Gate, ANDOR Gallery, London; Clay as Bread and Dust as Wine, Hollybush Gardens, London (all 2016); Fig 2, no. 7, ICA studio, London (2015), in collaboration with Maria Loboda; Ziggurat, Edel Assanti, London (2015); Claire Hooper, Bonner Kunstverein, Germany (2014); and Claire Hooper, Vanity Projects, New York (2013).
Group exhibitions include The Mardin Biennale, Turkey (2015); Regional, International and Extra Terrestrial, Mars Gallery, Los Angeles (2015); Songs of the Swamp, WUK, Vienna (2011); New Narrative, Digital Arts Centre, Taipei (2011); and Koln Kunstfilm Biennale, Kunstwerke, Berlin (2010). Screenings of her work have been presented internationally, including at International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Netherlands; MUMOK, Vienna; ICA, London; The Serpentine Cinema, London; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, Berwick-upon-Tweed, UK. Hooper has contributed costume and styling to the film works of Paul Simon Richards, including Quasi-Monte Carlo (2019), L*a*b (2016), and ∆ HS. FS. ZWN-BS. NC. BS (2015). Hooper was awarded the Baloise Art Prize in 2010, presenting her video Nyx (2010) at Art Basel’s Art Statements that year.