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John Cooper

John Cooper

John Cooper studied Painting and Stained Glass between 1949 and 1956, becoming Assistant Curator at the Glynn Vivian from 1954 to 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”. He continued to exhibit regularly in group shows throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1973 he designed the front cover of the programme for the Royal Gala Performance of the Fred Zinnemann’s film "The Day of the Jackal" at the Adelphi Theatre, London. He is considered to be a member of the distinct group of Welsh painters known as the “Naïve Realists”. Since his retirement from teaching in 1998 he has been able to exhibit more widely. His work is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Wales, Swansea Museum, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, University of Wales, Pontypridd, as well as numerous private collections. His early influences were Heinz Koppel, the German Expressionist, who taught at Dowlais during the late forties and early fifties and his father, Frederick Cooper, who was a student of his for some years. His work experience as a teenager in the offices of the eminent architect Tristan Edwards stimulated his interest in the urban and industrial environs of Merthyr and the adjoining valleys. The artist, George Fairley, was later to provide much guidance and encouragement. During his formative years as a painter, he 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 is often unconsciously echoed in the middle distance and foreground of his pictures in the form of gable ended rows of terraced houses and the variegated architectural facades of old Welsh chapels. The media he employs such as acrylic, pen and ink, pastel, and charcoal, used singly or combined do not have any direct influence in his 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 his picture making ideas. Much of his work reflects his 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. These landscapes often form the background to the everyday activities of the people living there.

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