© Barry Cooper 2018

Birth Rites

15th - 22nd November 2018

Centrespace Gallery Bristol

This show represents a journey that began in the autumn of 1984 when I had undertaken a year‘s Artist in Residence programme at Frome Community College.

 

Students completed large canvases representing modern versions of traditional paintings. Birth Rites originated as one of those paintings: the Magritte ‘Man in a Bowler Hat’.  

 

In 1985, at the age of 40, I began an MA degree in the painting at the Royal College of Art studying with Peter de Francia and John Golding (who was an authority on Cubism). Birth Rites was completed there.

 

During the Artist in Residence programme I also proposed a monumental sculpture based on the Moais from Easter Island which were arranged on platforms around the coast. They are now believed to be ancestral representatives of the people who created them. My concept for this present project was to create monumental colourful heads in metal, about 10 ft high, arranged as representatives of our local community, around a sloping piece of grass outside the Merlin Theatre in Frome.

 

Eventually only one, ‘Merlin’s Minstrel’, was created for Viscount Weymouth’s private garden on the west wing of Longleat house.

 

In 1989 with John Fisher (Principal of Frome Community College) I put forward a concept for a monumental international Community Sculpture project to create a local parliament of stone on the piece of grass outside the Merlin Theatre, collaborating with the sculptor Laurence Knee.. The exhibition with which I launched the original proposal in the Merlin Foyer was called ‘Birth Rites’.

 

In 1992 the project ECOS ‘The European Community of Stones’ was opened by the current MEP for Somerset and West Dorset at that time, Margaret Daly, and was finally completed in 2004.

 

Twelve monoliths, one from each of the original nations of the European Community were imported onto the site and an amphitheatre built as a forum for young people to celebrate friendship, artistic collaboration and peaceful coexistence.

 

In 2018 the ECOS site is in danger of becoming a fossil; Birth Rites is dedicated to the multicultural coexistence which this sculpture embodies.

 

The theme of Birth Rites maintains a fragmentation and continuing search for an inner fractal space created through planes and elisions inherited from Cubism. Whilst always yearning for a minimalist  simplicity  the noise of the outside world continuously breaks in.

 

The dominance of the unrepeatable mark is a constant; exploring the three dimensional through the layering of paint. The fourth dimension of time in painting, collaborating with musicians, has always been present and is extended in live improvisations. Performing with jazz pianist John Law explored that space found in earlier monochromatic abstractions.

 

 

Chaos is never far from the surface; surrounded by the destruction of life in the wider world and viewed from the perspective of the comparative paradise that has been my lifetime in the UK since 1945.

 

Through my frequent working visits to the Greek island of Paros since 1998, under the influence of Cycladic and Minoan culture, I continue to make sculpture in clay which reflects a fecund iconography that has also been a consistent undercurrent in my painting over the years.