John Cooper studied Painting and Stained glass 1949-1956, becoming Assistant Curator at the Glynn Vivian 1954-1956 before entering teaching. The first major group exhibition he was to participate in was the 'Young Contemporaries' at Chenil Galleries, Chelsea, London 1953 where his work was described in The Times as 'primitive' and he continued to exhibit regularly in group shows throughout the 1950's and early 1960's. In 1973 he illustrated the front cover of the programme for the film "The Day of the Jackal" for the Royal Performance at the Adelphi Theatre, London.
His work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Wales, Swansea Museum, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, the University of Wales, Pontypridd as well as numerous private collections.
He is considered to be a member of that distinct group of Welsh painters that have become known as the "Naive Realists". Since his retirement from teaching, he has once again been exhibiting on a regular basis.
"My early influences were Heinz Koppel, the German Expressionist, who taught at Dowlais during the late forties and early fifties and my father Frederick Cooper who was a student of his for some years. My working experiences as a teenager were in the offices of the eminent architect Tristan Edwards and this stimulated my interest in the urban and industrial environs of Merthyr and the adjoining valleys. George Fairley was later to provide much guidance and encouragement.
During my formative years as a painter, I was one of a number of artists for whom "the ordinary life in Welsh urban and industrial communities had become a subject many artists viewed enthusiastically". This urban and industrial landscape of the South Wales valleys with their characteristic hill-top triangular shapes of by-gone coal tips are often unconsciously echoed in the middle distance and foreground of my pictures, in the form of gable ended rows of terraced houses and the variegated architectural facades of old Welsh chapels; now sadly bingo halls or gyms.
I do not feel that any of the main media that I employ i.e. acrylic, pen and ink, pastel, and charcoal, singly or combined have any direct influence in my choice of subject matter, but are a means to an end. Outdoor drawing and painting plus digital photography together with many trips down memory lane play an important part in the formation of my picture making ideas.
My current work reflects my long, deep interest in the urban and industrial landscape of the South Wales Valleys with their fascinating repeat patterns of row upon row of terraced houses, coal tips and industrial buildings of the past. Some such subject matter is further enhanced by falls of snow which transform the landscape giving it a magical quality. Other work shows my concern with the environs of Swansea Bay with views of and from the now defunct Slip Bridge"