New directions: Gavin Hipkins - Art Collector

Issue 63, January - March 2013

This profile appeared in the New directions feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2013.

Gavin Hipkins & Karl Fritsch, Löwe, 2012. Silver gelatin print, rubies, aluminum, 24 x 30 x 10cm. Private collection. Courtesy: the artists and Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington

Photographic artists aren’t known for collaboration, let alone with jewellers. With their blisteringly beautiful series Der Tiefenglanz, photographer Gavin Hipkins and jeweller Karl Fritsch, both leaders in their respective fields, tested the boundary between their media. A hallmark of Fritsch’s practice has been collaboration with other artists but for Hipkins this is a dramatic yet logical new direction.

Shown in 2012 at Hamish McKay Gallery and Starkwhite in New Zealand as well as the Melbourne Art Fair, the alchemical and chemical powers of their processes mingle. Hipkins’s contribution dramatically extends darkroom techniques. Such is the play with silver salts, gelatin and paper – a play with white light and white heat – that it’s as if the works have come scorched off the photographic plate. He provides badge-like images that play off modernist history. Then Fritsch punctures, studs and defiles the surfaces, soothing these wounds with the inlay of jewels. The work talks to the history of their media as if they were bodies – as if together undertaking reconstructive surgery on their inherited past.

Hipkins and Fritsch met when dealer Hamish McKay paired their solo shows in 2010. Hipkins’s only prior experience in collaboration had been in film. “In film you accept or reject others ideas, but working with Karl there’s far more generosity and playfulness. Neither of us are overseeing what the other is doing. I send him pictures and he has no idea what he is going to get. Likewise, I have no idea what he will do.”

Der Tiefenglanz translates from the German as deep gloss. There’s a conversation about surface and the disposability of image here – how depth might be found in extraordinary ways. There’s also a shared punk sense of bodily violence and humour.

For Hipkins the shift is not as dramatic as it might initially seem. Silver gelatin prints have silver in them, and his work has long played with how the photographed object might deface or play on top of a background image. But the collaboration has loosened up his practice, he says, even influencing his digital work. Imagery has become increasingly opaque, reminiscent of the shadowy painterly world of early photography.

The two are now working towards another Hamish McKay show and a series has been commissioned for the exhibition
Multiple Exposures at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design this year, reportedly the first museum exhibition to explore the union of art jewellery and photography.

Mark Amery

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