Keith Hopewell – Extension & Motion


Now showing at Galerie Celal M13, 13 Rue De Miromesnil, Paris, France

23 rd March – 22nd April. 2017

“How far can one’s hand stretch out, until it reaches the edge of reality?” Archytas

Extension & Motion, is the first solo exhibition in France by British born artist Keith Hopewell, exploring the boundaries of contemporary colour language in an age of digitisation, through a new series of gestural paintings.  Each work is conceived with a minimalist palette of either two or three colours, as Keith physically obliterates each surface with the bombardment of primal marks, ultra fine lines, points and chromatic luminosity, building up morphic fields transmitting at different spatial frequencies. Hopewell’s past work is predominantly about the transformation of materials, and sound whilst, allowing the process of activity and  performative elements to become visible, through a synthesis of deconstruction/re-arrangement of surface and object. Notable work includes his reality charged pieces, where he incorporated painting with sculptural objects, such as steel security fences, and wire mesh, to re-orientate us and affect our perception, due to the parallax nature created by the two planes. In this new show, Hopewell’s use of interspersed colour invokes physiological effects, and time delays, through the use of subjective colour, simultaneous and successive contrast, and also the assimilation effects of Von Bezold, where the multitude of point and line is worked across the compositions at high and low spatial frequencies.


There is some reflection back to Hopewell’s earlier interest in digital printer marks and CMYK, but the work in this exhibition appears to be more about the human touch, and the performative elements of painting, in an era described by Rosalind Krauss as being a post-medium condition. In an attempt to understand such a condition, Hopewell’s objective here, is to find solutions that enable painting to reach out beyond itself, and establish a self-redefinition to determine where the edge is, or locate a central nexus, in the midst of today’s massive image circulation. To question paintings specificity, in a search to find any new sustainability for such a medium, is to flow off this tension and try to both regulate or de-regulate it, by embracing painting as performative time. What we are seeing here, is the residue of events, the echoes of action and refraction, linger like the absent colours that merely exist objectively for the eye only.


For Hopewell, the essence in the act of painting is located in the movement of the body, in the stretching out of the hand, to communicate his internal mental cognition onto the fabric of the external landscape. A sort of turning outward, what is not visible at the beginning of the process. If painting can mark time, then each mark here seemingly cancels out time. In the liminal moment resulting from the repetitive application of line upon line, he is able to deliver an explicit level of accuracy of straight vectors, not normally achievable by a hand in motion. In fact, the use of the spray medium in these works, questions the very idea of human touch, due to the anamorphic nature of spray, and its release of pressurised paint through a valve system. Theres a sort of refraction at work in his ritualistic process, like an unknowable reality, passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another. This direct presence of activated mind architecture,  resonating from the body to form a composition on the flat plane, echoes George Berkeley’s notion; “Nothing can exist without a mind to perceive it, the external world must exist within the mind of god.” Along with the harmony and contrast of spatial colour interspersions, this exhibition is really about reaching a point of purity, a sensory or meditative experience, where we can interpret painting with what he believes has the possibility of outliving itself at future points in time.

“Locke & Descartes became convinced that the knowledge that comes to us through the senses is deceptive. Behind what we perceive as colours, sounds, and odours, nothing exists but extension & motion. Or at least, the substance of reality was believed to lie therein…” Claude levi-Strauss


Keith K. Hopewell – Broken Systems in C Major


Hoxton Gallery, 9 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DA. Thurs. 15th January 2015/ Opening 6:30 – 9:30 pm

VAVA Records are excited to invite you to experience Keith K. Hopewell’s new sound installation ‘Broken Systems In C Major’, and the launch of his inaugural LP entitled ‘Chaoid Systems’. This installation incorporates surface deconstruction, film and sound, bringing together, disciplines perhaps not seen until now. Hopewell is a renowned practitioner with the spray-can related medium under the pseudonym Part2ism, for his radical and unorthodox approaches to art in public space. Keith has also recorded critically acclaimed material for the Big Dada/ Ninja Tune label, working with artists such as, New Flesh, Rammellzee. Blackalicious, Saul Williams, Roots Manuva, Anti-Pop and Blackalicious.

Broken Systems is a reductive spatial piece, focusing on the effects of low sound frequencies on the human body, as the viewer becomes a vibrational string being stretched and plucked inside an echoic chamber. On the wall of chamber entrance is a large projection of Spray painted surface remnants, forensically removed from the concrete of a historical London graffiti wall. The fragments appear to be reacting to the sound resonance, returning back to the aerosols natural anamorphic state. The fluctuant panning of the camera somehow creates impressions of landscapes and coastlines viewed from the air. As a clear division of space between image and sound become apparent, a purely sensual experience of instability begins to unfold.

“It’s both the slow rumble of structural damage happening in real time and the distilled essence of anticipation. Heart thumping, you open the door, and – – – shine. You’re swallowed into a moment of harmonic richness, pressure, rhythm and possibility. As a piece of art, it’s designed to create a powerful experience of sensory disorientation, and it’s at work long before you actually find it. Pumping a perpetually transposed one bar bass sub- wave into a blackened sound chamber, you, the subject, stand inside, at first hugging the wall, unable to tell whether you’re in a space four feet by two or 40 by 20. There’s a lurking discomfort you might be about to commit an accidental invasion of somebody else’s intimacy. Deprived of vision, you’re forced to listen, as they say, as if under a microscope. This is sound decomposed to its rudiments: a single frequency that your body physically resonates. It builds, darting through different spatial registers, becoming momentarily overwhelming, then eddies back to nothing. Your brain, looking for sugar, tricks you into finding shadow melodies.”

James McNally (From the sleeve notes of ‘Chaoid Systems’)

For more information please contact:

Re-enacting the Liminal – Keith K. Hopewell


“The element of play in art signifies performative enactment through movement. Movement is the key to play – but only secondarily the movement of the player. When we play, in submitting to the rules of the game we subordinate our own goals and purposes to those of the game itself”.

David E. Klemm

A threshold is a place of transition; a possible mental space attained when the direction in which you are aiming becomes the aim itself through a level of concentration, where in an anthropological sense we can reach a ritualistic state, also referred to as ‘being in the zone’ or ‘in the moment’. D. T. Suzuki states in the book Zen in the art of Archery; “If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes ‘an artless art’ growing out of the unconscious. A threshold in another context could just simply relate to working in-between spaces, with any or every medium across the board and between media. Existing in such a state of liminality, of being neither ‘here nor there’, what we are faced with is a resistance to classification, demanding an entirely new category. Obviously this can relate to the many disciplines involved in the practice of art, for instance; painting, sculpture, print, performance, new media, installation, all of which many artists today may work with, if not all of them. However, there are instances where artist’s simply do not fit a particular category, and are unlikely to be appropriated into any such narrow niche markets. For some, ‘crossing the borders’ can be the ultimate goal or perhaps a hindrance. We become what the German intermedia artist Hans Bredar describes as an intermedial being.

In the discipline of painting, I discovered that in the repetition of mark making, connections initially scattered eventually begin to fuse together to create one dominant form. Painting is a medium, which allows us to become immersed within the process, and continuous activity often results in an absence of thought and place. Great work really tends to happen when we are not calculating or thinking and become temporally unaware of the (I) self. Thinking without thinking occurs, where we can operate as naturally and effortlessly as we exist and breathe every day. On the one hand we have the aesthetics of the final work, and on the other hand we have an elevated ritual state created in the enactment of the work. So the question is, at what point does a painting become a performance? I suppose the answer lies in the artist’s own decision to reject the separation of the arts into discrete categories according to medium and market. In other words the painting is the true commodity, and the performative element is limited to being only supporting context. In his 1958 essay ‘The Legacy of Jackson Pollock’, Allan Kaprow explains how Pollock’s approach to the act of painting perhaps borders on ritual. In the dance of dripping, slashing and daubing, Pollock was truthfully “in his work”, since it was difficult to view the whole of the huge canvas that was placed on the floor. However, Pollock still had a carefully considered understanding of such an automatic approach, and knew the difference between a good gesture and a bad gesture. We could also look at John Cage’s relationship to Zen Buddhism or Kandinsky’s theories ‘concerning spirituality in art’ as lines of inquiry into the primacy of self-consciousness as a spiritual reality. However, it seems painting and performance, are key practices in artistic activities that involve participation with the depth of life force. As David E. Klemm states; “Spiritual reality is an on-going activity of mediating between opposite powers of consciousness, such as matter and spirit, time and eternity, the organic and the intellectual. Working for many decades on site-specific work in the public sphere, direct experience with ‘real’ environments has allowed a painting practice to flow smoothly and undiluted, due to the autonomous nature of aerosol related practice. Developing a reductive process over those years, slowly breaking down my work to a ‘least-ness’ of minimal vector and point application.

The use of aerosol in my practice involves dealing with both compression and velocity, and successful application results from experienced control, combined with the dynamism and fluidity of body movement. In each stroke, all of these elements must happen instantaneously to achieve a perfect line, as I continue to cut into an ever changing ‘absolute’ of geometric fields entirely of my own making. I cannot merely rely on technical ability alone, because a strong sense of balance and orientation is also mandatory. My choice of ‘aerosol’ as a medium could be considered by many in the world of contemporary art as a polemical and controversial selection. In researching the works of some established artist’s where the ‘aerosol’ is heavily present, such as; Christopher Wool and John Latham, I have found that the depictions of exactly what media was used in their works, appear to exclude spray paint from their list’s of materials. Working with this medium can feel like a bit of a battlefield, with regards to being marginalized for simply not fitting some persons ‘crude’ idea of what is considered contemporary art or even what is considered by some today as even ‘urban’ contemporary. Displacement aside, I continue to include the aerosol in my practice, because of it’s unique and direct qualities as an unorthodox yet contemporary medium.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 19.28.42Still from: Re-enacting the Liminal

Referring back to my reading of D. T. Suzuki and his idea of Zen as the ‘everyday mind’, I was able to reflect more elaborately on the performance elements of my paintings. His notions that man is a thinking reed who only produces his greatest works when he is not thinking and calculating, brought me back into contact with my long forgotten childlike state of mind. To arrive at a point of truth in our work, we must be prepared to embrace unknown territories. When we approach our work in a fluid state, we exist in a space where alchemical transformation is not only possible, but becomes intrinsically part of our being, rolling with us like waves in the great ocean. When I elaborate on Hans Breder’s title ‘Enacting the Liminal’, replacing the first word with Re-enacting, I am referring to the concept of removing the paint and the surface, and instead focussing on only the act/action itself. When spiritual development is reached according to the philosophy of ‘Zen’ as an artist of life, man does not require like the painter, a canvas or paint or like the archer, a bow, an arrow and a target. The dance, which happens in the act of painting, is not visible to the viewer when solely looking at a finished work on the canvas, but the action is a hugely important piece of the process, not mentioning any sound created. There is poetry to be found in both the painting and its process, so why not emphasise the enactment, the lived ritual experience, and make the gestures visible to the audience. Our work can represent numerous types of meaning, each containing a multitude of possibilities to communicate on so many different levels.

“This concrete language addressed to the senses and independent of the word, must satisfy the senses first, that there is a poetry for the senses just as there is one for language, and this physical and concrete language I am referring to is truly theatrical only to the extent that the thoughts it expresses are beyond articulate language”.

Antonin Artaud

DSC03824Untitled Chaoid No 2  –  (aerosol on canvas 180 cm x 180 cm)


The essence of letter forms in a pure esoteric state


Part2ism letter composition in Stockwell, South London 2013

To draw and design the fundamental outline for any given piece or letter composition, we are focused on the basic understanding of a letters structure, it’s dynamism and nothing else. The basic essence of a blueprint for the conception of any large scale letter production, is usually lost once re drafted and colour is introduced. To replicate the looseness and automatism of the pencil or pen, or even re-produce the energy of that first initial draft is an apex we almost always fail to reach. In many ways a colour scheme is dominated by the characteristics of the spray can tool itself and for this reason, a lot of letter based compositions can easily become institutionalized.

There are countless occasions when I’ve painted and really liked my sketch, only to find  the dynamics of the piece completely change when the colour scheme was intended to totally transform the composition. There have been so many times when I’ve felt that, It would have been interesting and challenging to leave the sketch because I preferred the energy more. On this occasion regarding the wall above, I decided that I liked the original biro sketch on paper so much, I would paint this composition in it’s pure reductive form. Sometimes it’s imperative to view such letter based idea’s in their embryonic state, as opposed to viewing such work that’s rendered and camouflaged by technicolor stylings, another discipline itself to the art of hyper-type.

After all, the letters are the very foundation of what is being conducted in these works and creations, so why not let the letters speak for themselves every once in a while? After all, type is the most important aspect here, and the colour or background is merely the ‘decoration’ or ‘architectural jewelry’ of such a stylistic assault. The wall composition above is a semi-complex piece, based on a more basic form than usual, an earlier Part2ism meta-linguist machine. This is a variation of what we could call, ‘a competitive type aesthetic.’ The creation of letter compositions, that are indeed beautiful but simultaneously aggressive and dangerous, with one main objective…. To destroy and level all competition, including our past efforts.

Word Power


The Science of the Letter as a Meta-Language


Part2ism Letter composition in West London 2010

“Look at some of the eastern languages. For instance, Japanese has two sets of alphabets that consists of at least 46 characters each set. Now consider that it evolved from the Chinese language which consists of millions of characters and imagine elaborating on that. The English alphabet isn’t much, especially in it’s current state. By comparison it’s like a dot. Why not go beyond that and just create an alphabet or language? You can’t put a limit on communication or how one can communicate, you’ve always got to look further, that’s how style expanded in the first place.”

(Phase 2: Style: Writing From The Underground (R) evolutions of Aerosol Linguistics)

In the beginning was the word and the word was made fresh! A word is merely a combination of letters arranged in such a way, so that we can decipher meaning  or define something/someone or plainly speaking, anything at all for that matter. These basic electromagnetic vectors in actual fact, describe everything around us that exists and we frequently depend and rely on the letter in all aspects of our lives. One argument I remember in the 1980’s, regarded the letter replacing the icon, as the new central figure in art. It never happened in the fine arts, although many youthful minds of outsiders excluded by the system re-defined the letter for themselves to develop identity and a new public presence of their own. From the humble beginnings of simply writing your name, a new visual language blazed a trail through the lines of transport networks and also onto the infinite concrete surrounding us. The letter as we knew it, was de-constructed by the competitive nature of individuals, 100% committed to taking type to it’s furthest limits. With next to no formal art training, this was an art derived by the people, for the people in the most depressing economic circumstances. In the face of adversity, the simplest name as a logo was transformed into a highly complex network of post cubist, constructivist, futurist, brutalist and postmodernist bombs, armed with arrows and missiles. These letters were designed to ‘burn’ all competition, and were most commonly termed as wild-style.

“We are talking about where graffiti originated, where hardcore war went down with markers against markers and letters against letters. You think war is always shooting and beating everybody but no, we had the letters fight for us.”

(Ramm:Ell:Zee  Art-forum 1988)

I recall sitting in a bar with Ramm:Ell:Zee late one night in Marseilles and the bartender asked us if we were with the military, obviously due to our English/American accents. Ramm bellowed “Hell yeah, we’re with the military!” I still laugh about this today, knowing that the bartender had absolutely no idea that Ramm was talking specifically about the militarization of art letters. He believed wild-style was only in it’s embryonic stage and that the arrows extending off the letters needed to be more finely detailed to show what was actually being directed. He referred to his letters as armored tanks and defined his practice as Ikonoklast Panzerism. One of the first to move away from letter styles rooted primarily in painting and into the realm of what he termed ‘total realism’. Zee constructed real and physical alphabets of letters as armored vehicles in full military function, a set of complete masterpieces.

Letter As Tank 

“This “chorus” of character-letters represents action better than a protagonist. Rammellzee eliminates himself from what he does; he is a biological entity which channels energy, he is a tool through which structures of universal truth channel themselves. he is not a name, he is not a person. it is the letter that dictates what he does.” (Edit Deak)

“Galileo and the rest of the brothers, they always left something that they know will stick to the letter and this time the letter’s sticking for itself. Once the letter has armed itself it is in it’s own military function. This time diseased culture is not going to send out another diseased culture to relay a message but will send a letter and the letter is going to relay the message.”

“The letter is the character. not the human. The letter is re-building its structure itself. This time I’m not going to send out another human body to relay a message that I’ve written down, because that body might say something different. In a war against symbols which have been wrongly titled the letter is the only thing which can fight. Not a human being, no tree, no nothing, no landscape. Not a boxer. The human body can never be a master piece. Hows many malfunctions does it have daily?” (Ramm:Ell:Zee)

Letter as Pure Composition


Fundamentally, I’ve always worked within a tight set of self implied rules. I’m interested in several different dynamics in my work that concern the medium itself and the pure elements of letter construction. I never include characters or figurative elements alongside my letter compositions, it’s the letter form itself in it’s purest state that interests me the most. All my figurative concepts have always been kept at a great distance from my word based configurations, since the letters themselves embody a total composition, and a successful piece should not not contain any characteristics of a mural in my opinion. My figurative works for example are based on realist painting concepts and the exploration of the spray can as a fine art tool, so these works I place in a completely separate territory. The deconstruction of letter forms for me is an explorational practice in itself, observing the letter as a transitional object in a state of political transformation. We even refer to letters as characters, so why would we even need to juxtapose them with iconic characters.

Word as Virus

According to William Burroughs the word is itself a virus, a parasitic organism that invades and damages the central nervous system. Burroughs believes the word has not been recognized as a virus because it has received a stable symbiosis with the host. The letter science of wild-style or Ikonoklast Panzerism could perhaps be considered, the ultimate resistance to such a host. The slanguage of rhyming (as in Hip Hop) stems from the same DNA as writing culture, the flipping of words in repetitive sequences, mirrors the systematic arrangements of burners against burners. Letters and words join, connect and explore new pathways but are all intrinsically linked simultaneously. Each have changed and influenced mass media culture on an enormous scale, but  inevitably, this popularity has inevitably stripped these movements of their original social role. The host seems to have developed immunity and injected antibiotics into what should have a larger role in todays art hierarchy. Through the lure of money, the host and virus have attained a state of benign equilibrium. If what we represent is a new visual language or a potential future avant garde, then it’s imperative for us as artist’s to challenge our own status quo. We know whats been done and what’s already derivative and co-opted, so how can we not try to transcend it? How can we not attempt to mutilate it?

Space Politics

As much as we identify with the spatial politics associated with the location of where much of this work is produced, politics also undermine the practice of letters due to it’s association with the spray paint medium itself. However, the majority of todays more icon or image based work that is created with spray paint doesn’t seem to face the same amount of scrutiny or discrimination. Ironical, the letters themselves are highly politically charged. We use text everyday, why is it so difficult for society to understand type being used in this way. We are in fact very much the ‘language’ in every sense, so why do we not question it? Is the written language not crucial to our existence as much as the image? Another question is, what is an image in todays advertising world without a linguistic code? In the same way ‘myth’ transcends a concept behind the rhetoric of an image with the use of a textual interjection, myth can also transcend the letter into a pure abstract language, a meta-language. Also, I must ask the question, what exactly is a contemporary art scene that cannot understand or relate to a world seen through the eyes of it’s own people, living in the heart of  chaos left in the aftermath of a post-modernist world? Well informed writers already know how to transcend the letter and language, and split it’s linguistic atoms to produce a pure universal abstract form. The letter does co-exist with architecture and embodies architecture in it’s own structure. Time to keep this movement moving, art in transit is also transit in art.

“Conceptuality does not necessarily play an essential role in the wake or aftermath of a stylistic seizure. The piece at it’s esoteric or most complex level is more like an object to be absorbed, not comprehended. It exists with the reasoning that it can be done and therefore must or should be done.”

(Phase 2: Style: Writing From The Underground (R) evolutions of Aerosol Linguistics)


Part2ism Future Love Song, Whitecross Street, East London 2011

Part2ism - Floral Skull 2009

Part2ism’s Floral Skull, painted at Portobello Green, under the Westway in West London, 2009. I found this photo on the net with 2 people sat in front of it. I remember this shot was in The Metro and The Washington Post but not sure who the photographer is. Anybody know?

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