Chris Payen and Alpha (née Meryl) Mason were born in 1964 — just less than one month apart — in London and Widnes respectively. They met at the age of 18, in the bar at Brunel University — not far from Chris' house — where Alpha was studying for a computer-science degree. Chris did not choose to pursue his formal education until later in life, but had an academic mind and found stimulating company amongst the science students. He had always dabbled in art too, though was yet to find a cohesive style. Similarly polyvalent, Alpha had already spent many hours devoted to her natural form of creative expression, writing. However, it was not until the two met — a case of love at first sight, according to both — that they could begin to consolidate their ideas in tandem with their relationship.
There followed many years of talking, travelling, bird-watching and creating — in various states of poverty or relative affluence, as they experimented with a diverse array of jobs to support their longer-term aims. Always tending towards a feminist stance, Chris took Alpha's name when they married, in 1986, and they moved to her childhood home of Kent, in the southeast of England. By chance, early contacts in the art world led to the couple meeting the editors of Raw Vision — John and Maggie Maizels — and, following an article in the magazine, the Outsider label stuck, despite the artists' continued attempts to reject it. However inappropriate these beginnings, Chris Hipkiss, artist, began a career that is now into its third decade.
In 2001, the couple relocated to the south of France.
The work itself comes from a personal vision built by the couple, who — since the early nineties — have lived and worked together, full-time, in one, joint studio. Reflecting interests in architecture, comedy, diverse landscapes, politics, music and birds, the drawings are an interpretation of the real world as seen through their eyes. Whilst Chris is the draughtsperson, the compositions and techniques are a product of two entwined minds; the words and motifs arise from inside jokes and endless conversations — from the profound to the utterly quotidian.
Meanwhile, Alpha's fiction — which, while published, has been deliberately kept apart — is another manifestation of the same, joint world.
Until recently, the artist 'Chris Hipkiss' has been credited as a singular, male artist — a misunderstanding that has inevitably affected the way that the art is perceived. The couple have now taken steps to give a more accurate perspective; 'Chris Hipkiss' is a pseudonym of Chris and Alpha Mason. In simple terms, the art is a love story in the form of a visual diary.
Version français à suivre bientôt . . .