Animal Instinct by John Hilton

August 06, 2020 - September 27, 2020

John Hilton William King Museum of Art

Exhibit Details

John Hilton’s work often portrays personal, and at times uncomfortable, subject matter. He finds it difficult to narrow down one unifying theme in the work as it addresses myriad subjects simultaneously. He is often asked by others, “what does this work mean?” and sometimes he answers simply “I don’t know, yet.” Many times the work is still too fresh to pin down one theme or message so he prefers to tell others what he is thinking about as he makes the work rather than try to explain the work in a direct manner. He uses the animal as a replacement for the figure as he finds it easier to place something between himself and the viewer. Doing so provides a source of protection as he is often addressing personal relationships within the work. He burdens the animal/figure in the work with telling the narrative on his behalf.  He is often thinking of loss, regret, disappointment, fear. anxiety, success/failure, vulnerability, social and political events, family and so on. The list grows as the work develops in many cases. Even though he believes we all share similar lists, it isn’t always obvious to the viewer what he is thinking and so he prefers for them to interpret the work as they see fit.


His work primarily incorporates drawing and printmaking. He finds these media are time consuming and tedious which fits well into his studio practice. He is able to stay with a work for an extended period of time and explore the subject in a more detailed and meticulous manner. He tends to work in layers, especially with print media. He prefers to address each part as its own separate, but important, layer in the development of the work.