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Tim Hawkinson: Mapping the Marvellous

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


11 Dec 2007 to 09 Mar 2008

Curator: Rachel Kent

about the exhibtion

Tim Hawkinson is a Los Angeles-based artist who creates highly imaginative two and three-dimensional objects across a range of media. His works vary in scale, from the small to the very large, to the gigantic.

Hawkinson uses a wide array of everyday materials such as latex, plastic, cardboard, string and mechanical components in his art. Intricate and playful, his works often reference the human body, introducing elements of portraiture and the self-portrait, as well as popular, mythological and art-historical sources. Hawkinson has experimented with various techniques to usher his works into being. Without formal training in electronics or engineering, he has taught himself to build intricate mechanical systems that produce movement and sound. Objects rotate and spin, drone and chatter, suggesting a form of intelligence that is often directed by wires and tubing attached to a machine nearby.

For this major solo exhibition, the artist’s first in Australia, Hawkinson presented sculptures, photo-collages and drawings from the mid 1990s to 2007. Earlier works included a balloon self-portrait, comprising a suspended latex cast of the artist’s body that was inflated via a wall-mounted reservoir of air, like a gigantic bladder or lung. Another work, Drip, comprised a monstrous form with white twisted-plastic tentacles that released droplets of water into steel buckets ringed about its base. The rhythmic staccato of the ‘drip-drip-drip’ suggested a drumming machine.

While some of Hawkinson’s works employed moving elements, others were created by mechanical means. The large drawing Petrie comprised loops and swirls in green ink made by attaching green pens to a modified drill head. The image started from the centre and worked outwards, with constant adjustments to the speed of the drill governing the expansion and contraction of lines on the paper. Hawkinson retained these pens, re-using them to form the startling green iris of a large sculptural eyeball. It sat in the gallery nearby, a mute witness to its own creation.

Mapping was a central theme in the exhibition. Reflecting a desire for order and containment in an often chaotic world, the artist used maps and charts, volumes and measurements to various ends. Some took the form of body maps, tracing the circumference of the human figure as well as its interior recesses. Others measured the negative space around the body; while one self-portrait used a mirror to document and distort the artist’s face, torso and limbs with humorous, hobbit-like results.

The exhibition introduced Hawkinson’s extraordinary new photo-collages, featuring fragments of his body that were documented and recombined in unexpected ways. Also featured were his fantastical structures and monstrous beings, including a small bat created from shredded black plastic bags and twist ties; and a huge blown-out truck tyre that revealed itself on close inspection to be little more than wire, paper and caulking. Combining technical mastery and visual illusionism, they envisioned a world of infinite, playful possibility.

Exhibition Guide - Tim Hawkinson


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