Both born in 1964, Alpha and Chris Mason met at the age of eighteen and very quickly became fused by their shared interests and creative aspirations. With two artistic elements – Chris a draughtsperson and Alpha principally a writer – they chose the pseudonym 'Hipkiss' (originally 'Chris Hipkiss'), in 1991, for their visual output. Since that time, they have lived and worked in the same studio space, first in their native England and, from 2001, in the south of France.
The identity of an artist is typically viewed in a fairly simple fashion: it is that of the individual who conceives the ideas for, and then creates, his or her works. In contrast with a filmmaker, the artist is seen as a solitary figure, frequently alone in their private studio, always singular in their vision.
The Masons describe themselves, rather, as a team, with joint 'directors' and a myriad of other roles taken by one or both of them. From the beginning, the works of Hipkiss have been the product of a collaboration, both technically and in terms of inspiration. A common love of birds and landscapes – be they bucolic, urban or industrial – forms the backdrop for most of the drawings, but one can also find coded messages, private jokes and fragments of the couple's discussions in the seemingly random texts.
While Chris is self-taught as an artist, Alpha studied photography, film-making and life drawing at college; the relationship has developed symbiotically, so that the works of Hipkiss are, at once, unfettered by rigid artistic training, yet always thoughtfully composed. Both of the couple are eternal students in subjects beyond art and there are themes of political geography, history and the social sciences, detectable on close inspection, behind the graphite, ink and metallic leaf.
Inevitably influenced by the doctrine of the 'auteur' as singular, despite a shared feminist ethos, the couple once allowed credit for the work of Hipkiss to be given solely to Chris – he who wields the pencil. However, in recent years, they have taken steps to banish viewers' assumptions of a 'male gaze' by clarifying their mode of creation as the dual process it is.
The work of Hipkiss can be found in the following collections: the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (US-WI), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Netherlands), The Whitworth (UK), FRAC Picardie (France), the American Folk Art Museum (US-NY); and in the private collections of Cindy Sherman, Antoine de Galbert and Arnulf Rainer. Hipkiss has featured in solos at Intuit, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, group shows at the Tate Britain, Whitechapel, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, La Maison Rouge, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art and David Zwirner, and international art fairs, including Art Basel, Frieze London, Art Berlin and Open Space (solo booth) at Art Cologne.