Phil Cooper in a universe of his own making

My friend Phil Cooper, who recently stayed with us at Ty Isaf, mentioned while walking around the Dark Movements exhibition, that he felt in a bit of a creative cul-de-sac with his painting. Here are a couple of his images that have caught my eye recently. He doesn’t look in a cul-de-sac to me.

Clearly Phil is a man who has mastery over his brushes, and he has a wonderful capacity for capturing mood. (That top image was born to be an illustration for one of the ghost stories of the great M. R. James.) And so whatever his problem, it seemed to me it would be less to do with his skills, and more with his studio practice. We talked about the fact that I often make models as the starting point of paintings, as I did with the Borderlands series. Model first, then drawing, and finally painting.


I suggested that he try it as a technique. Back home in Berlin, his fingers were busy. The following images are models he made and then imaginatively lit and photographed.




I think these are wonderful as works of art in their own rights. Now we must wait to see where they carry Phil. Watch at his blog, Hedgecrows. Next year Phil and I are going to be collaborating on making the video-trailer for my picture-book of Hansel & Gretel for Random Spectacular. He’s going to be interpreting my images of the Witch’s house, into model form for the filming.

12 thoughts on “Phil Cooper in a universe of his own making

  1. I am drawn to artists who offer a creative interpretation of place and experience and this is a quality I respond to in Phil’s work.

    The photos posted here are definitely works of art in themselves and now I am really looking forward to seeing where this takes Phil with his painting. It seems those wild places are calling out to him, so how will he respond?!

    • Yes, interpretation is the key element of work I gravitate toward. In landscape, and even in portraiture, I want to see something other than copies of photographs. (The disease of the BP Portrait Award.Tee hee!)

  2. I was fortunate enough to get to see Dark Movements last month and it’s had a fairly profound effect on me, as you know Clive. And not just on a personal level, but as an artist as well.

    On entering the exhibition space I was, within moments, transported to another world, and I felt enveloped in a very beautiful and mysterious place that it was difficult to leave. The paintings, drawings, maquettes, models, film and music all played a part in the mesmerising experience of that show; it was captivating, real magic.

    Something else happened too as I walked around Dark Movements. Faced with such power, the vague dissatisfaction with my own work snapped into focus and I realised I needed to do something different to climb out of the rut I was in. Trouble was, I didn’t know what I was going to do, just that I needed to do something. Your gentle nudge in the direction of making models to use as a starting point to explore new avenues of creativity, worked like a charm Clive. I’m now working on ideas that fill me with enthusiasm and excitement. Thank you so much for talking things over when I was staying at Ty Isaf. And the book-trailer collaboration is an absolute cracker of a project to get my teeth into. I’m looking forward to it very much, my friend.

    My thanks to everyone for the kind and thoughtful comments this morning. They are much appreciated 🙂

  3. I agree with you Clive, these models and photos of Phil’s are exciting in their own right.
    The “problem” that arises for keeping creativity alive is that the pathways get clogged with too much familiarity. Got to crack it open so it flows to us from a new channel…and becomes a new birth.

  4. I so enjoy the work you both do and the sharing of your work by each other with your comments on each others creations only serves to extend the enjoyment. I look forward to seeing the collaborated work it will be marvellous!

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