Julian Hooper

The Future's Counsel

1 March 2008 - 1 June 2008

In mid 2006 Julian Hooper visited the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Otago Settlers Museum on a fact-finding mission that sought to scope out and interrogate the historical portraits in these two collections.  The Future’s Counsel brings together a new series of mesmerising portraits that splice and merge together an assortment of motifs from European and Pacific history, delving especially into the artist’s Tongan and Hungarian cultural lineage. 

The twenty-two paintings on board, paper and canvas that make up this exhibition build up a rich tapestry of connections between the various players who are lifted from their historical realm and inducted into an entirely new space.  However, Hooper is not simply interested in creating a rupture between the original source material and this collection of paintings so it might speak to a contemporary audience.  Instead history becomes as much a conceptual device as it is a literal framework (the frames are on loan from the Otago Settlers Museum Collection) for understanding and unifying this disparate crowd. 

The Future’s Counsel is a deeply evocative exhibition in part because Hooper is able to blend and manipulate a vast array of painting conventions into a single body of work. In a sense Hooper is indebted to the first European travelling artists who ventured into the Pacific under the guiding principles of Enlightenment and who sought to produce copious maps, botanical and ethnographic studies, landscapes and portraits in the name of scientific study and artistic adventure. Having said this The Future’s Counsel does not depict the outsider’s encounter with an exotic ‘other’ rather these are the paintings of an artist who is emersed in the visual language and experiences of being both the subject and the witness. 

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