[A]n exhibition by Britain’s foremost mountain artist, and the Lake District’s most eminent living painter, Julian Cooper, has opened in London.
Titled Upstream, the exhibition at Art Space Gallery shows Cooper’s new paintings of the high fells above Crummock Water and Buttermere, close to his home in Cockermouth.
It’s one of a trio of exhibitions this year to mark Cooper’s 70th birthday. A major retrospective opened earlier this month at Abbot Hall gallery in Kendal, and this will be followed by the final exhibition, Full Circle, on home territory at the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere.
It was in the new studio there in 1969 that his father, the painter William Heaton Cooper, had just built, that he put on the first exhibition of work by Julian who had just graduated from Goldsmiths Art College. Almost 50 years later, his work will be the first to be shown at the re-opening of the Archive Gallery at the Grasmere studio.
In London, with Upstream, Cooper explores the surface of a land shaped by the mountain streams that feed the region’s lakes. In painting after painting he traces the tributaries upwards beyond the last stone walls into the wild country where the becks and the streams originate.
He also sees a once familiar landscape ever more threatened and inadequately served by those who use it; a landscape now made political by contentious claims that the widespread flooding that has twice devastated Cockermouth is a direct result of poor water management and the traditional hillfarming practices.
Cooper’s paintings almost always involve close encounters with barren and inhospitable places and for more than four decades he has visited some of the most hostile and awe-inspiring terrain on the planet: the Andes, Himalayas, Alps, Tibet, Carrara and Tasmania and made paintings that do justice to nature at its wildest.
But his native Lake District is the bedrock of his practice; his true territory. He was born there, and has a strong desire to reach beyond mere appearance and uncover the underlying structure and the essence of the place: paintings that tell a particular story about the history of its appearance and the processes of change.
Art Space Gallery in St.Peter’s Street, London was founded in 1986 by Michael and Oya Richardson and is recognised as one of London’s foremost venues dedicated to showing and promoting serious painting.
Julian Cooper studied at Lancaster School of Art (1964-65), Goldsmith’s College of Art (1965) and in 1969 was awarded the Boise Travelling Scholarship and was resident at the British School in Rome (1994-95).
Cooper’s father, William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995) was a successful painter of the Lake District, as was his grandfather, Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), and his mother was the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell (1915-1975).
He has work in public and private collections worldwide, has exhibited regularly in London since 1998, had a major retrospective at Museo Nazionale Della Montagna, Turin and was included in A Picture of Britain at the Tate.
Meanwhile, the Grasmere exhibition will open in June, marking Cooper’s birthday on June 10, and will run throughout the summer. This will include previously unseen work covering a range of time and subjects, including, people and urban scenes as well as mountains.
Upstream runs until May 26. www.artspacegallery.co.uk