In her first solo exhibition for Belgrave St Ives ‘About Home’ Jessica Cooper explored repeated journeys made between her home in the far west of Cornwall and St Ives as a metaphor for life; evoking memories of childhood in a small hamlet, just off the coast road linking St Ives to Cape Cornwall, whilst also conjuring images of domestic objects and family rituals tied together by the thread of her journey through time and place. This new exhibition has taken shape in the context of a number of trips made to Los Angeles, California and considers her art practice and personal philosophy with reference to her experience of home in West Penwith in relation to her recent encounters with America’s own west coast.
The working title for this exhibition was initially ‘Caught Between Two Places’ which remains the title of one of the key works in the show and captures the essence of a duality that underpins the new works. Many of the paintings – although distinctly individual pieces – were conceived as pairs and as such the gallery has presented these works in twos, both in the catalogue and in the gallery installation. By showing the work in this way the observer is allowed an insight into the tensions that inform each realised piece as an individual work and also in comparison with its companion.
For example, the relative opulence implied by ‘Fig + Chocolate’ (and perhaps implicated in the seeming glitz of ‘LA’ life) is presented alongside the relative austerity of ‘Spinach + Water’ which possibly corresponds more closely to casual perceptions of the sparseness of West Penwith. In these particular paintings, as in all of the artist’s work, the tensions extend beyond considerations of object and place into the artist’s practice (colour versus no colour, restraint versus abandon etc) and on into life itself (groundedness versus restlessness, concealment versus honesty etc).
Perceived stereotypically as a place of artificial glamour, densely populated and congested, Cooper’s visits to LA have revealed compelling similarities to West Cornwall with which she can readily relate. Beyond the city itself wider Los Angeles County is a ‘hard’ place; an environment of mountain, sea and desert and her home in West Penwith is similarly hard; a place of cliffs, sea and moorland. Feeling lost in a new environment to which one is a comparative stranger can lead to feelings of loneliness which in their own way can lead almost perversely to a new sense of freedom. This freedom reveals itself in this new body of work which the artist sees as transitional.
Richard Blackborow May 2016