Jessica Cooper has exhibited regularly at Belgrave St Ives
for several years, and the gallery announces her first one-person exhibition at the gallery. This show results from a number of paintings and drawings made by the artist over the previous 12 months.
Travelling regularly during this period between St Ives and her current home in West Cornwall, the journey became a metaphor for life; evoking memories from childhood, when she lived in a small hamlet just off the famous coast road between St Ives and Cape Cornwall. Conjuring up images of domestic objects and family rituals the journey from home to St Ives acted as a thread between now and then and then meaning of home.
By paring-down the appearance of familiar objects and places to their simplest forms, Jessica Cooper shares with us the intimacy she feels as she observes and paints subjects very closely associated with her life. For this exhibition the artist has elaborated the meaning of these associations by revealing in words some of the specific thoughts and histories relating to the objects and places she has painted.
The exhibition follows the artists recent collaboration with Nathan Outlaw at his renowned restaurant resulting in an exhibition titled Good Enough to Eat at St. Enodoc, Cornwall, as well as a commission by Tate to produce a series of branded merchandise in the artists distinct style, to be launched in May 2014.
From the catalog of the exhibition: Like the comic silence that treads a thrilling fine line; the pregnant pause in a bar of music; the short line of poetry that gathers emotion in refrain, Jessica Coopers apparent simplicity on canvas is her most courageous and impactful tool.
The temptation might be to call it minimalism, with its implication of stripping away or simplicity, with its suggestion of naiveté but more accurately this is mindfulness of art: a honing of awareness; an attentiveness of mind; and an openness to meaning, wherever it might be found.
To watch Cooper at work is to observe a tireless quest for this all-important meaning. As she prepares for a painting in her ever-present sketchbook, she explores and distils the subject until finding what she describes as its core: the part or parts in which she finds value, essence, emotion, substance or significance, impact or import. Once found, all else falls beyond the borders of the canvas, the noise of life is turned to fade, and she focuses with a rare clarity: on a shade of green, a line, a curve, a leaf, a corner, a tree, a house.
While Cooper has long been an artist who breathes emotion into the still life, never perhaps has a collection of her paintings been more emotionally resonant than this homecoming show in her native West Penwith, composed as it is of objects and landscapes that have shaped, and continue to shape, her life. Whether its a cup made by her grandmother, used by four generations; an acutely reminiscent view from the coastal road from St Just to St Ives; or a commonplace modern kitchen chair, Cooper seems to elevate the domestic and the personal to greater significance.
While the effect might be one of effortless clarity, the filtering out of extraneous detail is notoriously demanding in any art form. It requires well-honed skill, but still more, it demands conviction and courage. Denied the props of supporting structures, and freed from the restraints of dogged detail, Coopers paintings place themselves in a bold position of vulnerability. A wedge of lemon on the kitchen surface. A house on a hill. An oval of soap next to the bath. How can she know we will care? Artistically, Cooper leaves herself as precarious and protruding as a tree on the moors of West Penwith.
Yet this vulnerability, for me, is the very thing that imbues this body of works with strength and meaning. It is the thing that makes a painting of a humble bowl of pears strong and important. In short, we care because she cares. We believe in it because she does. It is a confidence that is quite contagious.
By: Ismay Atkins