Barefoot walking, candy packages, cups of tea.
Home to an artistic practice derived by the evolution from figurative to abstract, Chris Hawkes’ studio in Brighton’s Phoenix Art Space fully encapsulates their vivid approach to colour. There is a subtle parallel between the way the artist has arranged the room and their tendency to paint on white canvas methodically, leaving a portion of the background untouched. A fuchsia orchid droops over the desk, while scribbled lists and candy wrappers are blu-tacked onto a white wall, much like calligraphic swipes on a page. There are as many pieces of plastic packaging as there are reference photos, as Hawkes hoards them, interested in their saccharine and seductive design qualities. In this, there is a real feeling of contradiction which it’s evident is the backbone of the artists’ ethos, in both marrying the digital with the material and in blending autobiographical elements with historical influences, becoming a bricolage of high and low brow. There’s something of the domestic in this studio, where Hawkes drinks ginger tea, waters plants and walks around barefoot, comfortably slipping into their own technicolor domain. Piled up in the corner are printouts of baroque portraits, featuring floral bouquets, grand portraits and luscious drapery, ready to be traced onto acetate and projected onto canvas. Here, the artist depicts a queered narrative, where figures of the old masters may encounter the eccentric characters of the Brighton queer scene within a surreal graphic landscape.