Cample Line Louise Hopkins Img 1577
Louise Hopkins, Flying Fox, 2018. Image: Mike Bolam

They say that at one time a red squirrel could get from the borders to the highlands without touching the ground. I am heading in the other direction, driving with my front tyres worn to near the legal limit. After a stretch on the M74 from Glasgow I enter the yin and yang of Dumfries and Galloway. The weather is incomprehensible. Wind turbines and sections of green pine emerge from mist lying low on empty hills.

My destination is CAMPLE LINE, an arts venue and exhibition space located in Cample, about twenty miles north of Dumfries. It is a series of converted fabric mill workers’ cottages at the intersection of a railway line, a road and the Cample River. The rooms maintain a domestic feel and currently host Louise Hopkin’s Flying Fox, an exhibition which makes subtle connections with the site through a series of responsive visual works.

What can I really tell you about Flying Fox? What analytical process should I run it through? I don’t really know, in a sense because the show itself is, in fact, several distinct inquisitive processes, with each work representative of a sensitive phenomenological attitude, setting up small questions and finding strange or witty answers which allude to—but never fully embrace—bigger questions regarding, for example, the environment.

Cample Line Louise Hopkins Img 0964
Louise Hopkins, Flying Fox, 2018. Image: Mike Bolam

The haptic and tactile quality of the works gives Flying Fox an abiding sense of modesty. It does not state its intention as political subversion, reconsidering the archive or defining the state of the medium today, although it does take account of these matters. Hopkins, director Tina Fiske tells me, visited Cample numerous times over the nine months leading up to the exhibition, walking around the area, visiting local historical collections, bringing down small works and testing them against the landscape.

This establishes a series of connections between interior and exterior. Spending time with the work I can see some of ways in which it echoes its surroundings. A watercolour of black semi-circles on folded paper, ‘Branch’ (2014), mimics the shadows under the viaduct adjacent to the exhibition space. A photograph, ‘Bridge and Crown’ (2018), shows Hopkins standing underneath folds of painted canvas in an area by the Cample river, which one can see from the window next to the work.

Painted interventions in ‘Ruby Sapphire’ (2017) place shadowy hands and a stylised, ornamental red leaf palm onto a catalogue page of gold gem rings. The shadowy fingers greedily twist into multiple bands. ‘Quarters’ (2010) reworks a world map from a newspaper, forming a kind of visual-linguistic pun by surrounding the names Greenland, Black Sea, Red Sea and Yellow Sea with their corresponding colour. This technique of altering maps and newspapers is an abiding theme Hopkins’ work and is reminiscent of Tom Phillips’ book, ‘A Humument’ (1966-ongoing). ‘Quarters’, although playful, is also a disorienting gesture which, through altering familiar information, suggests a consideration of language, naming and the dividing up of land and sea.

Cample Line Louise Hopkins Img 1774
Louise Hopkins, Flying Fox, 2018. Image: Mike Bolam

The work from which the show takes its title, ‘Flying Fox’ (2018), was produced from a digital scan of a small watercolour and adhered to the gallery walls in large sections on both the ground and first floor. Its colours echo other pieces and the upstairs space’s wooden trusses, providing continuity and a literal backdrop for some of the works.

The substratum, be it a piece of paper, a digital print or sheet of newspaper, is important in all of Hopkin’s work in Flying Fox, and is variously amended through over-painting, marking and folding. These interventions and alterations show an interest not in painting’s capacity for illusion or duplication but rather its relational capacity for analogy and play. [1] The material concerns of the show and its investment in painting relate it to other Glasgow-based practitioners, such as Victoria Morton, Hanneline Visnes and Andrew Kerr amongst others, who engage in a form of provisional painting in an expanded field. This makes a positive value of situating painting in a wider world of images and circumstances, allowing it to intervene in those contexts.

The works have a sense of being made indoors but in the attempt to initiate a correspondence with what is outdoors, seeking small and intelligent observations. Hopkins has clearly considered the historic mill’s relationship to nature and production of fabric. Two over-painted photographic works nod to this by remaking textiles into trees, ‘Chandelier’ (2018) and ‘Rosa B’ (2016). These works remind me that an hour or so’s drive North East from here is Carrifran Wildwood, a project attempting to regrow a Scottish Wildwood with full biodiversity. It is both an expiation and an anachronism, and, like Hopkins’ exhibition, an ironic place to drive to. Flying Fox is a meditation on a distant or alienated relationship to nature and land as found in maps and textiles, felt through art-making or seen from a window. The feeling is not, however, overly melancholic, but interested, concerned.

[1] Hubert Damisch, Theory of /Cloud/: Toward a History of Painting, trans. Janet Lloyd (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002) p. 224.


Calum Sutherland is an artist living in Glasgow. His work and writing can be found on his website