Today we’re excited to feature the work of Simon Cooper. Cooper’s abstracted, geometric forms and limited red, blue and yellow color palette make him a unique figure in the Savannah art scene.
To see more from Simon Cooper, check out his website at www.simoncooperart.com.
SAI: Who are your artistic influences?
Simon Cooper: I’ve always enjoyed the modernist painters from the early 20th century, especially many of the artists who emerged out of Latin America, such as Carlos Páez Vilaró, Joaquín Torres García, and Antonio Seguí. As far as my fellow contemporaries go I very much enjoy the work of REMED, James Marshall “Dalek”, and Zio Ziegler. And of course I couldn’t deny the influence of both my friends and professors Kurt Vargo and Mohamad Danawi. And who could forget the great painter and equally great teacher Don Rogers?
SAI: You have a very distinctive style. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed it?
Cooper: I know as a kid I drew a lot of cartoons. I never necessarily wanted to be taught what to draw or how to draw it. I never really enjoyed drawing or painting to achieve a naturalistic quality, although I have [the] utmost respect for those that can. I always thought “what if it looked like this” or “why can’t it have three heads”.
My friends and family always supported my work and art seemed to be my favorite class, but it wasn’t until high school that I really decided it would be my ultimate focus in life. I had spent my formative years growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Life there impacted me personally as well as artistically and still does today. The reinterpreted forms of daily life by Antonio Seguí or the beautifully abstract and playful nature of Vilaró both are influential in the creation of my work. These two made art fun and exciting for me, qualities that I find to be essential in my paintings. I lived not far from an iconic mural that depicted tango culture and its famous pioneer Carlos Gardel. I would pass that mural daily and couldn’t help but be inspired to paint.
In short, South America has a special place in my heart and it certainly was the catalyst for a pursuit in the arts. From there I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design and studied Illustration and Printmaking.
SAI: Your sketchbook and “Andalucia” works use only a red, blue and yellow color palette. Can you talk a bit about this choice and its benefits and/or challenges?
Cooper: I’m not exactly sure when primary colors became, well, so primary in my work. I’ve always enjoyed a strong presence of color in artwork, more importantly how colors interact with one another. Yellow is a great color, but next to red it’s even better, and those two next to blue is just too cool. It’s that simple – I just really love the way those colors balance each other and how they contribute to the playful nature of my work.
To me, the colors are the definition of a good time. I will say as seemingly simple [as] the work may appear, it’s quite the opposite in its creation. Limiting yourself to only a handful of colors can be challenging. There’s a lot of decision making when there’s 100 empty spaces on the canvas and you have to decide which three colors will go where. Its always surprising to me in the end. In my case, I really attempt to equally space the colors; I avoid having red touch red or yellow touch yellow, etc. I have to methodically place each color in its right place. In time I’m sure I will expand my color palette, but for now red, yellow and blue is just too much fun.
SAI: You seem to favor a sort of Cubist abstraction in your depictions of the human body and face. Can you explain this tendency toward geometry over organic forms?
Cooper: I view geometry as the structure or the skeleton of my work. It’s the most basic approach in the formation of composition. I believe it’s a great way to start a piece of art, but it cannot stand alone as simply a collection of shapes, they must represent more than just geometry.
I think more than geometry, simplicity seems to be the driving force behind the work. I use these shapes to simplify a setting, to create characters, to tell a story. I want to visually reinterpret the world around us in this way. By carefully executing arrangements of line, color, and interlocking shapes I want to excite the viewer and bring them closer to the work. You could imagine these shapes as building blocks or puzzle pieces which are by definition playful and fun, which is exactly the feeling I want to represent. If I took a photograph of the subjects I choose to paint, they would be quite boring, but by reinterpreting these themes with bright colors and shapes the artwork becomes much more engaging, exciting and memorable.
SAI: What inspires you?
Cooper: The influence of cities and how individuals interact within them. The importance of history and its role in education. Soccer. Music. Maps. And of course the all inspiring Benjamin Franklin.