Tim Hawkinson's work defies easy categorisation. Ranging from drawings and paintings to multi-media constructions, his pieces can incorporate sound, kinetic elements and computer programming. Though meticulously designed and delicately constructed, such works have a definite air of DIY technology: like a science project gone horribly wrong, or fantastically right. Unlike many contemporary practitioners who outsource production, Hawkinson usually constructs even the most labour-intensive of his projects. He integrates scavenged and ephemeral materials and is most well known for the bizarre results that this mix of elements produce.
Scout, the title of the exhibition, draws its name from one of the show's key pieces. Scout (2006-2007) is a headless figure with absurdly oversized hands, created from pieces of cardboard lashed together. Hawkinson explains that the work is a "sensory homunculus buckskin outfit for a sensory homunculus scout" (interview with the artist, Art Review, April 2007). A sensory homunculus, perhaps more often seen in science classes, is a distorted human figure which reflects the relative space our body parts occupy on the somatosensory cortex. Our hands, lips, feet and sex organs have more sensory neurons than other parts of the body and this is correspondingly expressed.
Scout embodies many of the quintessential elements of Hawkinson's practise, such as an absurdist humour. The work is after all, a buckskin outfit for 'the little man inside the brain' (as the homunculus is known in neuroscience circles). Scout is also representative of Hawkinson's gift for lending life to inanimate objects. Cardboard boxes, sourced from the area around the artist’s studio, were selected as the base material for the work because Hawkinson thought they looked like leather or skin. This quality, combined with an imploring gesture lend Scout an all too human presence. In a similar vein, Deposition (2007), also in the current exhibition, reacts to human presence by hooting and whistling in breathy tones when motion sensors are activated.
Through his work, Hawkinson draws the viewer into a Carrollean world of inverse proportions, surreal adventures, and fantastical, sometimes sinister characters. His über-imagination produces a cast of hybrid animals, queasily enlarged body parts and grotesque collages that occupy a space situated somewhere on the other side of the looking glass.