The first time I came to Rob Hooper’s paintings I was struck by several things. First they were clearly works of urgency and energy. The vibrancy of the canvases is physical and powerful. They seize the viewer. They pull you into the essence of a moment, and explode it with depth and colour in a way that reminded me of the nature poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. In Hopkins too there is a sense of the impatience with form, the urgency of the creation to break out, go further, for the artist’s need to express—literally press out—onto a canvas or a page an inner fire. The craft, the art, is in bringing the viewer into this moment, this now, and in creating the sense of communion between artist and viewer.
For me, all of the paintings collected here have this urgency and power. But of course this is not the only feature of the work, or the thing that moves me to write these words. For the truth is the paintings have that simplest and perhaps most undervalued of qualities these days, they are beautiful. Look at ‘Cranberry Swing’, look at ‘Abundance.’ Look at them just for the pleasure of looking. The vividness of the colours, the startling combinations, the discoveries of tints and tones within a single square inch of any one of the pictures, creates a sense of the layered beauty of the world. ‘Pied beauty’ is Hopkins’ phrase for it. This layering, which is part of the artist method, carries within it an implicit statement of this artist’s vision of the world. For here the physical is at all times overlaid, under-laid, inter-laid, with the spiritual. There is a feeling of the inextricable. Just as you cannot separate the colours in a Rob Hooper painting, neither can you distinguish the merely physical from the spiritual. The work leads you to this feeling of deepening.
— Niall Williams