Ask the artist: 10 questions with Phill Hopkins

Above - Phill Hopkins at 'X', Left Bank Leeds. This photo and all photos used in this article were taken by Tim Balls.

Phill Hopkins first came to my attention when I was browsing Instagram and his 10 year retrospective exhibition 'X' at Left Bank Leeds popped up in my recommendations. I was immediately drawn to the ephemeral materials Hopkins uses and the doodly drawings and rebellious anti-art aesthetic he creates, which are a kind of visual punk/folk. In the flesh 'X' is absorbing, made up of hundreds of small works crammed into the exhibition corridor at Left Bank. The fact that the artist's studio is his shed and refuge from the outside world is mentioned in the exhibition text, and it looks like it informs the work made. Drips of enamel paint, hi vis jackets, and cut off pieces of chipboard all feature as part of the art and are items that seem to naturally spring forth from a shed.  Hopkins's visual art influences as described below (Guston, Rauschenberg, Kippenberger) are all men who make art with solididty and materiality. It feels industrious.  

I was delighted when Phil agreed to take part in the 10 questions as I was sure that he'd have some interesting answers. 

Who are you and what do you make or do? My name is Phill Hopkins and I’m an artist and I make a lot of things.

Where might we have come across your work before? You may have seen me in the collections of Leeds City Art Gallery or The Imperial War Museum or if you are Chinese in the Nanjing Baijia Lake International Culture Investment Group or recently at Left Bank in Leeds where a ten year retrospective X was shown. I’m also big on social media. 

Your Retrospective 'X' at Left Bank Leeds shows that you work with lots of different media including wood, printed ephemera, paint, ink, and textiles. There are also sketchbook pages. What is your usual starting point when making work? Sometimes I will start with an image that I’ve found on the internet. Sometimes I will work directly from an image and make a painting or I might make a drawing. Sometimes I am taken with a material that I’ve found, such as fake fur, leopard skin fabric or a piece of plywood and I will start with that by introducing it to an image.  

Who or what are your main influences? I am influenced by my childhood; the spirit of it, the way i made things. I love Robert Rauschenberg and Philip Guston and Martin Kippenberger and Bob Dylan and Benjamin Britten and Stormzy.
John Baldessari on Philip Guston
Bob Dylan - Cold Irons Bound (Live Video)
Britten - Cello Symphony - Rostropovich / Britten live
Robert Rauschenberg  
Martin Kippenberger: sehr gut | very good  

When did you first realise you were an artist? On a Tuesday.

How does social media help or hinder your practice?  I love it when I connect with people without leaving the house and I hate it when people don’t ‘like’ me. 

If you were offered a huge budget by a wealthy supporter to realise an ambitious project, what would that be?  To make a work for each of the songs that The Clash sang.   
The Clash - Bankrobber 

What's the best/your favourite exhibition you've seen in the last 12 months, (and why)?  I recently saw a John Piper show at Liverpool Tate. It was breathtakingly beautiful and completely surprising and it was such a joyful experience.         
John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens "Crown of Glass" a Shell Guide's archive film 

Is it worth going to University to study art these days?  Yes 

What's on the horizon – any projects coming up?  I’ll be showing some more in Australia, including at the Mary Poppins Festival and also some things in Suffolk. I don’t really have an horizon, I’m just immersed in what I do and things happen. I also want to try growing some more potatoes and beetroot and chard. 

X continues at Left Bank Leeds until 29/03/18, Wednesdays and Thursdays 10 - 4pm.

Also coming up -

Faith in art  22/03/18 - " Faith in Art is a series of conversations with artists, exploring how life and their faith have an impact on the creative process. Join us for a chat with the visual artist, Phill Hopkins as he shows us examples of his work and gives us some insight into his life and creative process. He'll be joined by exhibition curator, Si Smith and Baptist Minister, Simon Hall, who will lead the conversation, in an insightful and thought-provoking interview about the intertwining aspects of art and faith."

And: Hotel Drawings - 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe UK to 24 March 2018