Last month Marcus Cope made 48 drawings in Cyprus. This Thursday eve is the p.v. of his Made in Lempa show. The gallery is at 57a Redchurch Street (a few minutes from Shoreditch High Street tube)
open: Wednesday to Sunday 12-6 pm
or by appointment. Here's his press statement...
The forty-eight drawings in this show were all made by Marcus Cope during a month spent in Cyprus in the spring of this year. Nostalgia for full-scale painting, perhaps, away from home and the studio? The drawings obsessively go back over the same subject-matter: canvases, paintings, paint tins, walls. A painter's world. In just a couple of them a painter is actually there, at work on a painting, but in all the rest the human element - an artist who in any case isn't Cope himself - has been supressed, and it's the work itself that's on show: paintings, finished or unfinished, or blank canvases hanging on the wall or piled up against each other on the floor. Though, these are drawings after all, the subject is never more than glanced at, alluded to, delicately touched in. That the work is in the studio is marked by the small wooden supports it's resting on to keep it off the floor, or maybe a tin or two of paint in front of it. If it's up in place, hanging on the wall, then we must be in a gallery.
Nostalgia doesn't really come into it, in fact. For a year now it's drawing Cope has been concentrating on, not painting. The tight constraints he's working under here - a sprayed red ground, four colours, forty-eight sheets of A4 - are less a set of practical limitations dictated by the circumstances than a formal decision to keep things under control. Each drawing makes the same small moves and each next one shifts them, just an inch. The hinting and the allusiveness aren't just a witty way of getting the viewer to do some work - though they are that too - they are the point of the exercise. Aside from the few anchoring touches of realism - the deft almost cartoonish touches of a paintbrush here, a chair there - the drawings are playing games. Within the scattergun extremes of the red spray, not necessarily covering the whole of the paper and not signifying anything in itself. versus the ruled line, the basic geometry which creates the side of a canvas, there's a constant question being asked. How little information can we get away with, artist or viewer? Not just how do we make meaning, but how do we deal with the meaningless?
In the end it's the idea of reflexivity too we need to clear away; this isn't by any means drawing about painting. It's just another way of keeping things simple. An artist works in a studio (even an imaginary one), why pretend he doesn't? Why go out into the landscape, why set up the still-life? What is happening on these surfaces is a set of delicate re-arrangements of lines and angles. The pervasive pink might make us think of blood (of course it mustn't). The canvases, walls, room-corners, (all made of lines and right-angles), aren't in our heads, they're there on the paper: but that that working painter was suppressed could be significant. What else needs to dissolve for meaninglessness to take over?
And now here's a Q & A I did with Marcus Cope via e-mail a few hours ago....
The Rebel: Are you excited about this new show - is it your best show yet?
Marcus Cope: "I'm not sure that excitement really comes into it. The shows are always different aren't they? It's new work at a new stage of the journey of my life. I made all the drawings in a period of four weeks that I spent in the spring this year at the Cyprus College of Art. For me they act almost like stand-ins for holiday photos. The represented spaces are largely images of studio or gallery settings, but in there there are a lot of bits of my Cyprus experience, represented in the paintings on the walls and floors of these scenes. Parts of the studios at the college, buildings I've seen, images resulting from conversations etc. I don't believe in best. It may be the show that I feel most inspired by, in terms of taking the drawings on to somewhere else, rather than looking at them as something past, concluded."
The Rebel: When did your drawing talents first become apparent - who encouraged and inspired you?
Marcus Cope: "When I was at junior school I could draw well. I remember two drawings in particular that I did when I was about ten. One was of a tree. The other was a badger. I copied the badger from an encyclopedia and added a fence behind it and had it sitting on a pavement. Everyone in the class agreed it was a very good badger, except the teacher who made fun of me for having made the badger so big in comparison to the fence. I'd never seen a badger so this struck me as quite mean. I've got a drawing I made from when I was five that was entered into some Cadbury's competition. It was on the wall, framed, in my mums hallway for many years, along with a certificate from Cadbury. My Grandma used to like drawing and encouraged all her grandchildren to draw when we were staying over, although that was mostly to keep us quiet." The Rebel:Do you draw most days or do you have long periods of art not being made? Marcus Cope: "What these drawings have is the confidence of work that is being made everyday. I'm not able to draw everyday, not just because of working (for living) but it's also about inspiration. London is a really tiring place to live and make work in, and it's often hard or impossible to find the solace necessary for reflection and contemplation...both of which are essential aspects of my practice. I never have long periods of not drawing unless I'm involved in some paid work that is physically and mentally draining. I get a bit agitated if I don't get into the studio on a regular basis.
The Rebel: What are the best art shows you've seen lately? Marcus Cope: "The Michael Simpson show at David Roberts Foundation made me want to get on with some painting in a way that no show has done for a long time. In the last room of the gallery were four tall paintings of Leper Squint holes with ladders leaning up against them. The paintings were all leant against the wall. Bloody brilliant. The paintings are so confident, definite, direct, the palette sparse. Yes I liked them a lot. I also enjoyed the Leonora Carrington retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. She just did what she wanted and that seemed to have comfortably coincided with the rise of Surrealism."
The Rebel: Are you a happy go lucky person or do you have a chip on your shoulder? What are you most bitter about? Marcus Cope: "I'm relaxed. Bitterness is funny. Why bother? Things are how they are. The world is unfair, but there are a lot of people a lot worse off than myself. I'm very fortunate." The Rebel: "Has travel broadened your mind and made you a better person? Marcus Cope: "Travel is like a kind of equilibrium. It puts you in a position where you have none of the control of your surroundings that you build up in everyday life. I like it because it forces you to relax. You can't be stressed about how long it takes to get to the bus stop because you don't know where the bus stop is, and you don't have anywhere to go anyway, or any time that you have to be there...etc. You eat new food, you open up, meeting people is much easier and much more rewarding because you have time to have proper, relaxed conversations."
The Rebel:Can you name 3 contemporary artists you like that aren't personal friends of yours? Marcus Cope: "I've been looking at Matthias Weischer recently. Although I'm not into his garden paintings. You can't really like artists though, can you? You like some things they do, or about what they do, or have similar interests or attitudes... but that can go off the boil. Opinions change, we change. Two others? I've always found Schnabel intriguing, I mean, how can someone pull off being so bad with such bravado and sometimes get it absolutely right? Not very fashionable but there is something in Paula Rego that I'm drawn to at the moment. I'm thinking of the works made during her National Gallery residency which was probably in the 80's or 90's." The Rebel: Which famous artist do you know most about (have read the most books on?) Marcus Cope: "Probably Guston. With Duchamp a close second, followed by Picabia and Basquiat." The Rebel:Do you have a favourite quote? Marcus Cope: "You know, it's not that it's my favourite quote, and he's not an artist I care much about, but it's the one that I can't let go of, that always seems to re-emerge and I'm always in agreement with. 'You are lost the instant you know what the result will be', Juan Gris. The Rebel: If we come to your show next week what sort of thing should we expect, have you decided on what to wear, will you be jolly, shy or arrogant? Marcus Cope: "I thought I should wear flip-flops, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt...because I made the drawings in sunny days. I hope to be jolly but you never know...we all have our dark moments!"