Sydney 2010

PEAK OIL PAINTINGS Annandale Galleries March 2010. "These new shaped paintings seem literally to be ready to fly off the walls, perhaps due to their sail or wing-like configuration. There is an exultation and sense of freedom experienced by the viewer with these paintings that makes the act of looking an experience transcending the everyday viewing of artworks..."

 

 

Exhibition dates: 17 Mar – 17 Apr, 2010

CHARLES COOPER’S new work ‘Peak Oil Paintings’ at Annandale Galleries has produced a dramatic shift in his oeuvre. These new paintings seem literally to be ready to fly off the walls, perhaps due to their sail or wing-like configuration. There is an exultation and sense of freedom experienced by the viewer with these paintings that makes the act of looking an experience transcending the everyday viewing of artworks.

Cooper’s subject matter has remained similar to past work. He is concerned with the communal space of the roadway and a theme that has occupied the artist for over two decades – landscape as allegory. What appear to us at first as geometric compositions with some modernist overtones turn out also to be – sometimes quite specific – mundane sites such as speed bumps, pedestrian crossings and car parks. Signs and symbols we see everyday in the city but take little notice of are the subject matter from which the work derives. There is a close study on the part of the artist of the semiotic aspect of Aboriginal art. Much Aboriginal art literally depicts specific sites and may be classed almost as maps. Within the image however there is much more cultural significance and what one sees depends on the extent of knowledge one has of Aboriginal work, or one’s level of initiation. It is multi-layered and multi-faceted. Cooper somehow translates some of these ideas and processes into our city environment, as well as situating the work in the continuum of Western art-history.

In the past, Cooper has presented many of the ideas described above in a somewhat deadpan mode. While a painting might have a specific site and set of ideas as a starting point, the more one understood the more complex they became. Irony and a certain sense of humour are evident in the previous work. In the new paintings by contrast, although the ideas and the thread of his work is still very much evident, it is as though the shaping of the canvases and the changing textures have set the work free. The artist has always wanted the primary response to come from within the viewer, but this time he has allowed us more room to move in terms of our own responses and emotions. Cooper has to some extent thrown caution to the wind, widened the platform on which his work rests and leaped into the unknown. The result is both a major turning and jumping off point for one of Sydney’s much-loved artists and I believe his best work to date. – Bill Gregory, Sydney February 2010