Erik Block

Charlotte Hopkins Hall: Forever Entangled in a Causal Loop

Charlotte Hopkins Hall: Forever Entangled in a Casual Loop at Gallery 46, 8 – 30 March 2024.


Gallery 46 continues its run of thought-provoking exhibitions next month with a presentation of work by the celebrated Swiss-born, London-based artist, Charlotte Hopkins Hall. Entitled Forever Entanged in a Casual Loop, the presentation, which features new and previously unseen works, has been in the making for more than two years. Taking over the entire gallery, it includes large-scale paintings rendered in acrylic on canvas, alongside acrylic and wood block print on Japanese paper. The inspiration for these works are in part revealed in their titles, such as The Council of Nonsense Peering at Wasted Souls and Nonsense, Imposters and Rhetorical Bullshit. Eric Block asked her to reveal more about their genesis and what lies behind her beguiling, enigmatic paintings.

For your show at Gallery 46, you paint someone representative of you with your back to the viewer wearing a striped top. Simple question, why are you there?

The answer to this question has various dimensions. I am not there per se. The first explanation is that using the image of my back is a social commentary, a response to society’s obsession with the face and its passive swiping and resulting self-importance. A more nuanced reading of the use of this motif is threefold referencing anonymity, civic responsibility and absurdity. I feel strongly that responsibility starts with self and the importance of bearing witness to the topics that I’m addressing. Also, the repetitiveness of this motif is, on the one hand, an aesthetic choice and, on the other, one that does not distract from what is being said. If the figures in the works were different, one would consider the people and their stories, which would detract from the fact that they are used as a template to develop the concept.

The Council of Nonsense Peering at Wasted Souls, acrylic on canvas, 160 x 180 cm.

‘Whatever our perception of the world, folly inhabits the quest for peace, and order fails to tame chaos. This is the eternal complexity of the human experience.’ This is a pessimistic view of the world, or the view of a realist, either way it doesn’t offer much hope for anything ever improving. In relation to issues like population movements caused by wars and the environment, what would be your plan of correction?

As an artist, I’m an observer. My role is to alert and call to attention, not write policy. My sensibility is such that I experience the world intensely and recreate it in a visual form. But to try and answer this impossible question, one of such complexity, rooted in history and human avarice, a plan of correction would take time, which we don’t have, and a concerted effort, which we don’t have. It isn’t pessimism, I am a realist and looking at the leaders and corporations we have today, I see none that are going to address this and compromise the power they wield internationally for the betterment of others. The reason why people move is because their livelihood or security or environment is at such risk that they are prepared to make the most perilous journeys in an attempt to find a better life; one that we in the West take for granted. The complexity of this question continues as we consider whether states in the Northern hemisphere can indeed support this huge migration of people, which will only worsen with the climate crisis. However, whilst countries consider this question, we can still show compassion and respect peoples’ human rights and well-being and decide that it is intolerable to have thousands lose their lives on boats, in deserts, in impassable jungles and suffer unspeakable abuses at the hands of unscrupulous gangs. We can demand that border control officials not beat or shoot defenseless civilians. We can demand that our governments show a unified response and support countries on the frontlines, hopefully bringing about a more humane response. One thing I can say with certainty is that shying away from the problem is not going to solve it, for anyone.

Who are the artists (in all the senses of the word) that you most revere, and does their influence infiltrate your art and if so, how?

Many artists have had an influence on my work, however, not necessarily in perceptible or tangible ways. It is a sense that is left with you, an emotional or intellectual understanding. Whilst the Minimalists, notably Sol LeWitt engage me, an example of the latter is Fra Angelico’s Dominican Blessed and the Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs. The composition, the rows of figures, is something that I return to again and again. Similarly, James Ensor’s work is aesthetically removed from mine but his paintings of masked figures and skeletons expressing his contempt for politicians and the absurdity of human behaviour are arresting satires. The absurd is a dominating theme in my work that was kindled very early with the reading of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros in my late teens. My interest in existentialism peaked early too after reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Sartre’s Nausea and Voltaire’s Candide to mention just a few. The notion of the existence of being human is the foundation on which my work is constructed. The artist who has captured my lasting attention is the sculptor, Juan Munoz. Beyond the beauty of his work, his sculptural installations inhabit a room and are profoundly engaging, masterfully playing with exclusion and the absurd.

You grew up in Switzerland, do you think its culture has a bearing on your work?

Nonsense, Imposters and Rhetorical Bullshit, triptych, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 300 cm.

Growing up in Geneva, I would not say that Swiss culture itself has a bearing on my work, but the environment I grew up in certainly did. My parents both worked for the UN international organisations exposing me to the political world stage and the organisations’ core objectives to improve people’s lives. The international arena was an intellectual and engaged environment; our dinner time conversations centered on politics and current affairs; they still do. It honed my awareness of the plight of people. It is from observing its successes and failures, that I developed a deep-seated philosophical interest in the condition of being human, a lifelong concern for the other and a staunch advocate for human rights.

What was it that attracted you to Gallery 46?

Gallery46 is a special gallery. The space itself is beautiful rabbit warren, set over two Georgian townhouses, lending itself perfectly to the exhibition I am putting on: Forever Entangled in a Causal Loop. Drawing on the idea of a causal loop, the gallery allows for a circular movement from one space to the other. Martin J Tickner who runs the gallery is not your ordinary gallerist, he’s open minded and generous, and has been on the scene for decades and a real pleasure to collaborate with. Moreover, the gallery has a high-quality programme, consistently putting on first-rate exhibitions. I’m delighted to be part of that.

What other projects do you have planned for this and next year?

There are several projects in the pipeline, 2024 should be an exciting year.
Charlotte Hopkins Hall is a Swiss-British artist whose work is focused on observing political and social constructs and the impact of these on the question of the independence of the individual in society. Her work is meticulously painted using fine brushwork in layers to create a sense of depth, and in the process, covering up or erasing previous layers.

To discover more content exclusive to our print and digital editions, subscribe here to receive a copy of The London Magazine to your door every two months, while also enjoying full access to our extensive digital archive of essays, literary journalism, fiction and poetry.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.