James Cooper Solo Exhibition
Opening night Thursday September the 21st, 6 - 9pm
A contemporary abstract expressionist painter, James Cooper was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been living and working abroad for over 7 years. He returns home in September for his first solo show ’N A T I V E’. Cooper’s work explores the concept of place, ownership, and what intrinsically lurks beneath the sense of geography we all speak of as ‘home’.
“A time of immense personal change and paradigm shifting in my own life compelled me to paint these works back-to-back over a series of months on the West Coast of America in Malibu, California. Inspired directly by vast coastal views of the Pacific Ocean, I painted day in, day out in the serene surrounds of my studio. The shock of deep, rich nautical blues, bright sunny Los Angeles skies, and smog-infused, golden sunsets - an ever present reminder of overpopulation and urban sprawl - left me both inspired, and deeply questioning.
The incredible mountain-meets-seascape geography whispered to me dark secrets of stories untold. Behind the thin veneer of fast fancy cars, Hollywood celebrity sightings, mansion homes in the canyons and the bustling surf culture, I began to ask a deeper question through my work. What did it mean to be a true native to the local Malibu environment? Who were the local people before the European contact of 1400 A.D. and now, modern day residents setting the stage of Malibu as a getaway within LA, a celebrity rehab hub and an aspirational coastal city to pine for - the much coveted “I’ve made it in California” trophy? What was the land like before the mass developments? Who were the Chumash people I’d heard stories about - the original indigenous inhabitants of the region?
Through getting to know the locals in the surf and what I feel were the spirits of ‘Old Malibu’ in the process of creating this series, a visceral violence permeated each wooden board. I started to notice this pattern a few works in, layer on layer of paint. An uncomfortable juxtaposition arrived from the ether. It seemed beneath the visually beautiful veneer of the local environment, there was, an ever-present dark heart, tangible - even in this coastal town. This feeling coupled with (as of early 2017) a tangible prejudice arriving from the top down against those not born within the country; a hostile policy towards anyone entering its borders. On top of this, locally, a native people within Malibu who, it seemed to me, over hundreds of years, were not visible in day to day existence locally. This sub-level hostility seeped into the work, and the innate cultural friction, noticeable to an outsider, has informed the graphic representations, shapes, patterns and colour palettes at play within my work.
As a foreigner in America working on an Artist Visa, I couldn’t help but feel this energy spill over into the work. And the questions still remain - mainly, still now as I compile these works for exhibition, the question remaining with me… What does it mean to be ’N A T I V E’ to a land mass, a place or a group of people?”
Exhibition will be open to the public daily from Thursday, 21st September until Tuesday September the 26th, 10am - 6pm.