Jessica Cooper is a Cornish artist, who lives and works in Cornwall. Her paintings are stark and simple. She concentrates on still life; often domestic objects such as cups or bowls of fruit. These objects are sparely painted on a white canvas, often placed unusually. She also paints so-called landscapes, frequently houses and walls, with solitary trees. her style could be called minimilist.
It has been said that her work is influenced by that of William Scott, the Irish painter of still-lifes who turned to the master of still life, the French painter Chardin. Scott is known for his figurative paintings of domestic objects, especially pots and pans, but also for his abstract works which were influenced by American artist Rothko. Below are a couple of images of his paintings, followed by two of Cooper’s for comparison.
Fig. 1. Pears (1979) Fig. 2. Ochre Still Life (1958)
Fig. 3. Bowl of Pears Fig. 4. The Birthday Mug
The painting Pears (see fig. 1) by Scott of pears figures two matt black fruit, placed in the lower third of the canvas, in different positions, the one on the right could be phallic and the one on the left is reminiscent of the female organs of reproduction, the uterus and cervix. Some of Scott’s work has been said to allude to the sexual relationship between male and female and this seems to be so in this work. In the upper half of the painting there are faintly drawn lines of three more friut. I have not seen this work in the flesh, so do not know how these images are made in the translucent sky -blue background. Although there is more than one fruit, and therefore there is a group, they are spaced in a way which does not connect them, except for the inferred sexual relationship between the two lower fruits. This is in contrast with Bowl of Pears by Cooper, (see fig. 3) which are contained within a bowl which occupies the whole space of the canvas. A white bowl, with little deference to the rules of perspective, contains several overlapping pears in subtle shades of greens and mauves. The grouping is evocative of a feeling of connection and containment, and there is a sense of dominance in the spatial positioning which may reflect the artist’s preoccupation with connection as opposed to isloation.
In contrast, Cooper’s The Birthday Mug (see fig. 4) is a single isolated image of a white patterned mug, with a bright red inside, visible because of the distorted elipse. It hangs without a supporting base in a white canvas. The only colours are grey, red and a blackish outline. It is orientated for a right-handed person to pick up, whether this is deliberate or subconcious, I do not know, but it is noticed when one compares the painting with that of Scott’s Ochre Still Life (see fig.2), in which the only vesselwith a handle, a saucepan, is orientated for a left handed person. To someone right-handed, this gives the work an awkwardness, makes one feel unbalanced, perhaps also because the overall compostion is of a disorganised grid, with some of the vessels just touching, but without overlapping. This and the lack of tonal depth makes the image two dimensional. Scott is not concerned with accuracy, and the painting vers towards abstraction, becoming a grid of rounded rectangles. The tension between figurative and abstract is palpable, and more pronounced than Cooper’s painting, which is strongly figurative and evocative of emotional response.
I went to Bath to the Edgar Modern Gallery which exhibits and sells Cooper’s work. I took the three photos below of her paintings.
I visited an exhibition “Kith and Kin” at Falmouth Art Gallery . In the second room at this exhibition there were works by members of the same families of artists, amongst which two paintings, one by Ben Nicholson and one by Kate Nicholson (daughter of Ben and Winifred Nicholson), struck me as having connection with the work of Cooper.
Upper right. Fig. 8. (1962) 1962-Still-Life
Upper left. Fig. 9. (1957) Leaf Jug
Lower. Fig. 10. Title and year not known
All three use a limited palette to portray a similar subject in line, with little attempt at depth of image. Ben Nicholson’s 1962- Still-Life is more abstract in style than the other two paintings, but all three have a sparcity of line and form.
The exhibition “Kith and Kin” was posing the question as to whether an approach to art and style is carried across generations and within families.
Figure 1. Scott, W. (1979). Pears [Lithograph on paper] Available at:http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/scott-pears-p06823 [Accessed 29 February 2016]
Figure 2. Scott, W. (1958) Ochre Still Life [oil on canvas] Available at :http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/scott-ochre-still-life-t00505 [Accessed 29 February 2016]
Figure 3. Cooper, J . (2012) Bowl of Pears [acrylic] Available at:http://www.thestourgallery.co.uk/portfolio/jessica-cooper/paintings %5BAccessed 29 February 2016]
Figure 4. Cooper, J. (2015) The Birthday Cup [Acrylic on canvas] Available at:http://www.thestourgallery.co.uk/portfolio/jessica-cooper/paintings %5BAccessed 29 February 2016].
Figure 5. Bailey, A. (2016) Cooper, J. (2015) Echo [Acrylic on canvas] [Photograph] In: Possession of The Author. Tiverton
Figure 6. Bailey, A. (2016) Cooper, J. (2015) Small White Hen in a Dust Bowl [Acrylic and pencil on canvas] [Photograph] In: Possession of The Author. Tiverton
Figure 7. Bailey, A. (2016) Cooper, J. (2015) Three Concepts [Acrylic on canvas] [Photograph] In: Possession of The Author. Tiverton
Figure 8. Nicholson, B. (1962) 1962-Still-Life [oil on canvas) Available at: http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/1962-still-life-14582/search/makers:ben-nicholson-18941982/page/7[Accessed 1/March 2016]
Figure 9. Bailey, A. (2016) Nicholson, K. (1957) Leaf Jug [oil on canvas] [Photograph] In: Possession of The Author. Tiverton
Figure 10. Cooper, J. Title and year unknown. Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=jessica+cooper+artist+images&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=610&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjqhZKx6Z3LAhWHOBQKHZfbCugQ7AkINg#imgrc=I6omvFWoV3oGxM%3A
Stolen, S. (2012) The Stour Gallery At:http://www.thestourgallery.co.uk/portfolio/spring-exhibition-2012/exhibitions—current
Laity, P. (2013) ‘William Scott, the painter who made the everyday a masterpiece’. In: The Guardian [online] At:http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/mar/02/william-scott-painter-domestic-masterpieces%5BAccessed on 1 March 2016]