Hypnic Jerks

PAULNACHE in conjunction with Evan Woodruffe present...

Hypnic Jerks 06.02.15-28.02.15

At last year’s MFA show at Elam School of Fine Arts, Woodruffe described his paintings as map-like, showing our own negotiation of physical and cultural spaces, looping between the internal and external worlds. His latest exhibition Hypnic Jerks continues to explore this dialogue between inner and outer, taking its title from the twitches that our bodies sometimes experience as we lay in the liminal state between waking and sleeping, often as a half- dream of falling or tripping up.

Hypnic Jerks seem to be a sign that the motor system can still exert some control over the body as sleep paralysis begins to take over. Rather than having a single sleep-wake switch in the brain for controlling our sleep (i.e. ON at night, OFF during the day), we have two opposing systems balanced against each other that go through a daily dance, where each has to wrest control from the other ... as hypnic jerks escape during the struggle between wake and sleep, the mind is undergoing its own transition. In the waking world, we must make sense of external events. In dreams the mind tries to make sense of its own activity, resulting in dreams. Whilst a veil is drawn over most of the external world as we fall asleep, hypnic jerks are obviously close enough to home – being movements of our own bodies – to attract the attention of sleeping consciousness. Along with the hallucinated night-time world they get incorporated into our dreams (1). 

In Hypnic Jerks, Woodruffe proposes both waking and dream states; the work stands astride the real and the imagined – the paintings are abstract yet reference the real world, with the trail of his brush marking stages, places and possible events. The brain processes the diverse events of our waking life by incorporating them into dreamed sequences, and similarly these paintings mix a jumble of cultural and historical signs into a surreal landscape.

The scribbles, meshes, and twisting lines lead to a number of associations: the rhythm of flax-fibre fishing nets and winding paths, tangled electrical leads, long-exposure starlight photography, and the fizz of static. Oblong swatches of colour, stripes and polka-dots allude to colourful modern fabrics: intensely patterned Liberty prints from London and limited edition sneakers from Vans and Nike, visual cues that suggest cultural diversity and creative confusions. Rough forms that interrupt the patterning shift at slower speeds, representing unfettered, floating spaces like that of interior cellular activity and the marbled liquid slides of 60s psychedelic light shows.

By moving each component differently – to float or scrawl, point or effervesce – Woodruffe creates a tempo and sequence that is both decorative and disorientating, the hypnic jerks that signal the struggle between waking and dreaming.

Hypnic Jerks will be the artists second solo exhibition with the Gisborne Gallery.

  1. Footnote: (1) Stafford, T. 22nd May 2012,

For more information about the artist and his work contact the Gallery or visit his website: