Our latest LiveStudio, A Still Life, sees jeweller Kyle Hopkins quite literally stare death in the face. Hopkins - and his entire metal workshop - will be in residence at SHOWstudio for two days, streaming live as he creates his very own death mask. Composed of half of Hopkins' own face and half of a skull, the mask will be embedded with hundreds of his tiny signature figures and inscribed with his adopted Latin motto 'Sic Transit Gloria Mundi', meaning 'how quickly the glory of the world passes away'. The stream will capture Hopkins' carefully cultivated techniques, all while he contemplates his own mortality in a candid Q&A.
Hopkins has garnered praise for his unique pieces of jewellery, which modify and transpose the body's architecture. With casts of ears and eyes hung as pendants or series of brass finger prints linked in a chain, Hopkins' adornments displace our bodily elements, reminding us of the vulnerability of flesh. His death mask will be driven by similarly sinister ideas, taking inspiration from the Western tradition of commissioning wax or plaster casts of people's faces after death as a means of honouring the deceased.
Hopkins is well aware of the artistic interplay between still life and death. Dutch vanitas painting in particular was abundant with symbols of brevity and ephemerality, employed to remind viewers not only of the transience of life but also of the meaningless of earthly pleasures and possessions. His death mask aims to provoke similar consideration through varied symbolism and iconography, evident in his use of painstakingly handcrafted miniaturised figures that so frequently appear in his work (whether reclining over rings or hanging from earrings). Will the sea of figures that consume Hopkins' rendered face appear as bewitched revelers of the afterlife? Or will they stare back, demanding that we deliberate on our own time on earth, and how quickly it may end?