Although Chris Hipkiss has often been identified as a male artist creating alone, the name in fact refers to two artists working in close collaboration: Alpha and Chris Mason. Together, they have created both large-scale works that feel like filmic treatises and smaller images, such as this one, which are like previews for a psychological thriller.
With their horizontal format, monumental scale, and depictions of strange beings, the larger pieces have been compared to watercolors by Henry Darger and drawings by Paul Noble. Like the work of Darger and Noble, Hipkiss’s enigmatic tableaux may produce uncanny sensations of both recognition and alienation. The architectural structures can appear biomorphic or industrial in character, while the human figures—who Chris describes as alter-egos—are not recognizably from any time or place. The futuristic quality of these drawings is further enhanced by the barcode used as the duo’s signature, as well as by the particular use of language. Hipkiss’s mysterious, poetic titles are often executed in an irreverent manner and are as chimeric as the figures and fragments that populate the landscapes themselves.
The drawings are rendered in pencil and sometimes a silver-ink underlay for detail and highlighting, and there is lushness to Chris’s pencil line. The artists have been working on small drawings over the last several years, creating them in a studio that doubles as the couple’s sitting room. Chris has been known to spend days drawing the more taxing components of these intricate pictures, while Alpha provides integral compositional and thematic direction. Despite the overall otherworldly character of Hipkiss’s scenery, elements of it have been inspired by memories of Alpha’s hometown of Doddington, England, as well as Chris’s childhood near the Thames. Today the Masons live amid the inspiring landscapes of another region: the South of France.
By Katherine Jentleson and Valérie Rousseau, 2014