"I was born in Wales, of Greek, Welsh heritage. Educated at Goldsmith College in London. I am inspired by immortality and making the impossible seem possible. Taking one moment in time and making it last forever. The grit and glitz of life is what interests me. My work can be controversial and sometimes uncomfortable but always magical. I use many different mediums, such as neon, found objects, film, projection, sculpture, and painting."
Throughout Hopgood's career he has appropriated and re-imagined pop and underground culture in a variety of ways. His work has been shown at galleries in New York, Sydney, Australia, Germany, Italy, and London. The illusionary nature of Hopgood’s work plays with ideas of existence, appearance, and reality through the practical use of projection. He creates a liminal space for the viewer, one that exists in a state of transference from reality, to dream, and back again.
The Advocate: Sorry to ask the usual question, but how is the pandemic treating you?
Carl Hopgood: The day the lockdown began, was also the day my relationship ended. It was an uncertain new chapter that I would be facing alone with my 11 year old poodle named Pippa. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on artists and small businesses like mine. All the iconic gay bars; The Gold Coast, Rage, Flaming Saddles and Micky’s have closed. Walking past the windows has been absolutely devastating. The empty chairs and bar stools were stacked up, like towers of loneliness. I was feeling very isolated and withdrawn during this period, since my family are in Cardiff, Wales, thousands and thousands of miles away. It was then that I decided to use my art as therapy and face the fear and isolation head on.
"'My Heart Is Open" was made during lockdown. All the restaurants and business were shut down where I live and all over the world. I would walk past places and see chairs stacked up in the windows. It was like a ghost town. There was so much illness, death, and economic collapse that the virus left in its wake. People took to the streets expressing their emotions as protestors were calling attention to social injustice and racism with the Black Lives Matter movement. Creating this piece was very cathartic for me. It literally kept me from having a meltdown. It was my therapy."
What about exposure? Are your galleries opening? How do you connect with collectors now?
The Maddox gallery on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles has two of my neon pieces currently on display, one of them called “Looking For Love in All The Wrong Places” is featured in the window. My work has had more people see it since lockdown because it is visible from the road. The bright neon lights glow from across the street, which has attracted a lot of attention during this very dark period. Most of my collectors find me on social media or through word of mouth. Instagram has acted as my virtual gallery with hundreds of visitors a day.
Sleeping Golden Stag, 2015
Dimensions: Life size, gold leaf, stag horns, marble, plaster, single bed, and mattress
"The Golden Stag sculptures are life size, the plaster and fiberglass versions are gold-leafed. They also come in bronze as miniatures which are half the size of the original. The sculptures with horns reflect the battle of a hedonistic past and a battle between love and lust, the conscious and the unconscious, and the mind and the heart."
Driving around Los Angeles and seeing LACMA’s buildings demolished is still a shock. It feels somehow connected to the pandemic, even though it is to make way for new structures. But a lot of galleries are closed and in peril of closing forever. How is that for you?
The number of people who go to galleries in Los Angeles is much different than that in New York or London. Here, there typically isn’t as much foot traffic, but during the pandemic, with all the storefronts boarded up or empty, the galleries have been a beacon of hope, creativity and optimism.
The robe is vintage: Welch Margetson & Co contact - firstname.lastname@example.org
How does your creative process work for the more ephemeral and conceptual pieces such as the “Empty Chair Polaroid”, and “Excuse Me”?
With my practice, I take my time to let all my ideas flourish and grow naturally. Sometimes they lead somewhere and other times they don’t. I allow myself to make as many mistakes as I need to make to get the work to where it needs to be.
Your stag pieces feel signature. How did those start? And how difficult were the full body cast pieces?
My sculpture, "The Golden Sleeping Stag", came from the eternal struggle of the mind and the heart. The minataur, the fusion of man and animal. Being part Greek, I have always been inspired by Greek mythology and how man can be both carnal and human. How our heads can sometimes rule our hearts and vice versa. The Stag Horn Edition expresses the symbol of the stag horns as both as a weapon and an object of beauty. The horn assemblage became a symbol of these polar opposites: violence and beauty.
Empty Chair Polaroid: Empty-chair technique originates in Gestalt therapy in which the client conducts an emotional dialogue with some aspect of himself, or herself, or some significant person who is imagined to be sitting in an empty chair during the session.
During all this — The pandemic, the election, and the general vibe of a city struggling to not go crazy — are you having any fun?During all this — The pandemic, the election, and the general vibe of a city struggling to not go crazy — are you having any fun?
David Hockney is one my favourite artists. His paintings of naked men and swimming pools in Los Angeles inspired my move here. The city has made us rediscover the beauty of the outdoors. I learned that I can social distance, wear masks, and still enjoy nature. During lockdown, the freedom to be outdoors, at the beach and in the mountains was never really taken away. Nature continues to fuel my art.
“Excuse Me” Chair installation photograph: 3 red waiting room chairs at the end of a corridor have a hidden speaker beneath the seat. We hear the sound of a man's voice every 30 seconds call out ‘Excuse Me’. Growing up as a gay man in the '90s we were made to be fearful of fearful of AIDS and HIV. We were told it was a death sentence by government advertising. There was no PREP and limited treatment. We would wait in silence at the clinic for our HIV results in sheer terror waiting for our number to be called. This sense of fear is revisited again with the Covid Pandemic.
"Excuse Me" when said politely in various contexts, for example when attempting to get someone's attention, asking someone to move so that one may pass, or interrupting or disagreeing with a speaker. I was also interested in the language of the words "Excuse Me". The 3 differences of meaning - Attention, Move, Disagree. When said in a different tone it can take on another meaning. The chairs help focus our attention. They are the audience but also become the spectacle. Installation View Central Saint Martins College MA show, London, September 1997
What’s next? Please talk about where your creative mind is taking you from here.
What’s next is my 2021 solo exhibition, "Fragile World", featuring film, sculpture and video installations.
I’m also developing a photography book entitled “My Heart Is Open” featuring 100 now empty locations across the country - the book takes its name from the sculpture “My Heart is Open” which is currently on display at the Maddox Gallery in Los Angeles.