Road Works – Annandale Galleries February-March 2013

Posted by on Jan 24, 2013 in Solo show | No Comments

Charles Cooper’s works are meditations upon the ways in which we organise and travel through the urban environment. In some ways, he can be seen as an artist who observes the commonplace features of the city as if through a botanist’s eye. His works sensitise us to the lyrical qualities of both urban cartography and the signs upon which we rely on a daily basis to guide us through complex and densely populated space. More than this, they encourage us to treat the road as a kind of sculpted object that we can turn over in our hands in order to understand its particular language of expression, and to contemplate the ‘patterns’ of human behaviour that it generates.

In his most recent series of works, Cooper has offered motile impressions of roadways and roadmarkings. While the works in ‘Peak Oil Paintings’ (2010) used shaped supports and deep perspective to evoke the ways in which we encounter roads in motion, the exhibition ‘Road Works’ (2013) sees Cooper explode pieces of roadway to reflect on the disintegration of roads potentiated by rising sea levels and the erosive impact of extreme weather events. This ‘Sea Change’ series of works employs very thin supports, and their whimsical arrangement causes the road fragments to have an uncanny lightness, like a scarf captured by the wind.

While the ‘Sea Change’ paintings confront the theme of disintegration quite explicitly, a great number of Cooper’s works highlight the mutability of what we tend to view as rigid and permanent features of our environment. The crazed surface of his paintings, achieved by scratching lines into the wet paint, has many allusions. These marks are not repetitive hatchings, but appear as the familiar lattice of a dense urban street map: somewhat geometric, somewhat organic, with the lines being akin to arterial roads, cul-de-sacs, etcetera. The multicoloured ground that is often revealed by these furrows sets off the flat blocks of grey, brown and white that comprise Cooper’s compositions. This activation of surface brings us up close to the material of the roadway that is in fact always in a state of flux from the movement of the earth below and the strain of massive daily loadbearing above. Thus Cooper’s paintings, despite the geometry and solidity of the shapes within them, are always renditions of objects in dissolution. This dissolution locates the viewer in many places at once, from the road’s surface, to an aerial viewpoint, to the distillation of a map, to the scene of a road dramatically undone by a flood or coastal storm surge. These perspectives stimulate philosophical reflection upon the volatility of all environments, ‘natural’ or ‘urban’, and the tenuousness of the sense of order we have within the latter.



110 Trafalgar Street Annandale
Exhibition dates 26 February – 27 March 2013
View website

Opening at Annendale Galleries, 27 February 2013 (Photographs by Brendan O’Donnell)

Also see Road Works 2013