Magic Blankets & Patchwork Dreams
By Roli Rivelino
I ascend the stairs to a small flat on the edge of
London ’s Notting Hill, and a kind of futuristic natural history exhibit is revealed. Among the general clutter, hanging from the walls, ceilings and every conceivable space, is an eclectic collection of everyday objects encased in plastic quilts. The effect the place has on me is strange, almost religious – a feeling that’s heightened when the light switches to UV. What appears by daylight as collages of text and graphics culled from the city; becomes under UV light a gently glowing, finely filigreed structure of lines. Welcome to the distinctive world of Johnny Hines.
A unique artist who collects modern relics; street signs, newspaper billboards, stickers, newspaper articles and posters, and then entombs them in plastic shrines, the debris spins a narrative, which at times seems too intangible to grasp. I ask Johnny about how he came to this form of artistic expression. “It was a slow process really, I had always been a painter working with oil paints, and then one day someone gave me a sewing machine, so I stitched a pattern on a canvas then painted onto that, I liked the effect it created, so took it from there.” More practical concerns also came into play. “Not having anywhere to store my paintings was as good as reason as any to change the way I made art” he tells me. “Space is a premium here and stacking paintings back to front ruins them after a while, I had to come up with something that enabled me to keep making art at the pace I wanted and to store that art safely, so before all this (he gestures around the room) I started making one metre modular squares” which I’ve called Patchwork, ” Patchwork is a system of 32 one metre squares that are a reiteration of the American patchwork quilt tradition, the squares are sewn with bold lines of thread forming a clear plastic sandwich. Thinly padded with fragments of the everyday, they’re edged with black Velcro, enabling each piece to be attached to any other square or squares in a variety of 2 or 3D configurations.
Hines’ esoteric tastes shine through in his work. In one segment there is a hair extension from legendry musician, George Clinton of P funk and Parliament fame; in another he has pulped a collection of Somerfield plastic bags, giving a distinct marbling effect and in another piece entitled Sad Dinners, he’s entwined a collection of Iraqi Dinahs bearing the face of Saddam Hussein encased in thick plastic sheeting.
Interwoven red, white and blue nylon thread symbolises our own troubles in Iraq
. Hines is now expanding on his theme with a new work. “I wanted to move from the restrictive metre squares to something bigger, so I started on Magic Blankets, which you see all around you, they’re based on a similar principle, but are bigger, double bed sized in fact and I really like that the viewer can get something new from the art by viewing it under UV light.” Hines tells me, but I can’t help wondering if when his work is dug up in centuries to come, and historians pontificate as to the nature of this collection, whether they’ll work that bit out.
view all articles from this author
Roli Rivelino is a writer in London.