Keith Hopewell: ‘A Retrospective Report From New Babylon’

26 May 2023 – 21 Jun 2023

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Free admission

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1 Lower Clapton Road

England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Hackney Central Station
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Hackney Gallery presents a new exhibition of paintings, film and documentation by international artist Keith Hopewell.


With over 40-years of practice working with the medium of spray paint, his polymathic approach to artmaking goes beyond the traditional concepts of what spray paint practice is or could be. 

Over the decades Hopewell has been a major influence on generations within aerosol related culture but is also well-known within the underground avant-garde hip-hop movement. 

As a youth growing up in the UK, the mass-transit art that transformed the New York Subway left its impression on him. His formative years were also influenced by the sonics of early electro, raregroove, Sci-Fi movies and the visual aesthetics of Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Archestra. This exhibition joins the dots of a journey through time, space and place, from an era without digital photography, social media, or mobile phones, to the present day, where total surveillance is omni-present in our lives.

In early 1989, Hopewell (known then as Part 2, superseded by the moniker Part2ism) was a pioneer of photorealism, developing techniques with the only widely available spray paint at the time - automotive car paint. Due to the poor quality of this medium Hopewell was able to perfect his understanding of tone and form in such a way that the usual reliance on outlines was no longer required. A natural curiosity and playful imagination led to him pursuing a vast range of subjects, with Hopewell using the term ‘photorealism’ to describe the style and quality of his work. A myriad of faces, eyes, objects, lady birds, pop imagery, giant jet planes, wheels and even food packaging were juxtaposed together on walls in cities throughout the UK. Due to the temporary nature of his work, few examples exist today. However, this exhibition features his last remaining work on canvas from this unique period, a photorealist piece which predates modern spray-paint brands.

Alongside this work sits a previously unshown collaborative work, made in 2001 with downtown New York legend, artist, Ramm:Ell:Zee. This (ransom note) collage was created by the pair during one of Ramm:Ell:Zee’s visits to London when Ramm performed with Hopewell’s group ‘New Flesh’ (at the time signed to the Big DaDa / Ninja Tune label). Ramm:Ell:Zee was a personal friend, and collaborator on both visual art and sonic works, and still influential to Hopewell today.

Hopewell’s contemporary practice features his gestural works, string systems and performative time paintings. Uniquely, this will be the first exhibition where his representational work can be viewed alongside his non-representational pieces.

A selection of films provides a glimpse into the vast output of his work including early letter pieces, controversial CMYK interventions and low-tech/ high impact projects. These works utilised discarded cardboard, cut to re-imagine text/type that could be assembled in the public sphere. Pieces of up to nine meters in length were packed in sections, allowing for travel and checking-in at airports. These hyper-type works were placed on central reservations, glass safety panels and even on rows of supermarket shopping trolleys, following Hopewell’s music tour routes. They have been installed and photographed in cities such as London, Berlin, Paris, Marseilles, Geneva, Zurich, Moscow, New York, and Copenhagen.

The holistic ‘thread’ that links the works in this exhibition is Hopewell’s response to the human condition and above all, what it means to be human. From photorealist portraiture, painted free hand with painstaking detail, to gestural works centred around the movement of the body and performative process. This work investigates the relationship of time, people and transition through place.

Hopewell’s work in the public sphere, despite being temporal in nature, has made a long-lasting impact on those who know his practice.

The exhibition will host a series of events including:

The launch of a new collaborative work with photographer & filmmaker Simon Isaac and

An artist’s talk with open panel discussion.

Selected works will be for sale alongside a limited screen-print edition.

For further information, additional opening times, interviews, sales and press please contact Dar Bird 07599 147112


Keith Hopewell & Nikki Goldup

Keith Hopewell & Nikki Goldup


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