Thursday, June 20, 2013

Making Plans: Stephen Hobbs

The Standard
 The work at Stephen Hobbs’s new show doesn’t come as a surprise. It bears all the markers of his practice, both visual and ideological, that he has been driving for some time – perhaps since the Low Voltage/High Voltage installation at the Substation at Wits in 2009, where he quite firmly established his idiosyncratic urban assemblage sculpture that is characterised by his fixation with scaffolding, which he alludes to with the use of dowel sticks. The scaffolding motif has served as a shorthand for progress and flux, articulating Hobbs’s fascination for the mechanics of Joburg’s regeneration, which he has played a role in through his work at the Trinity Session, managing public art projects.

In Be Careful in the Working Radius, the title of the show, this recognisable aesthetic, motif, remains ever present; while some prints are supported by dowel stick frames, others are prints of representations of scaffolding structures layered over each other. This creates the impression that Hobbs has, simply, distilled or reduced his aesthetic, his motifs, to suit the printmaking medium, arriving at more conventional and consumable art products for a commercial show.

Ordinarily this observation would imply that a compromise had been reached or perhaps even that Hobbs’s practice hasn’t evolved much, yet something interesting is developing through his engagement with printmaking at David Krut. This medium and process it entails seems to have cultivated a more sensitive awareness of form that has engendered a body of work that is the most aesthetically pleasing Hobbs has produced. He seems less preoccupied with making smart, conceptual statements and has allowed himself to be seduced by this medium. It has forced him to become more invested in the art object.