Never predictable, Cope's work can lead you through a thicket of self-cancelling brushstrokes or pull you up short with an exact almost po-faced description of some everyday object, as unimportant to you as it might well be to him. Like a Chaplinesque drunk somehow able to follow exactly the line drawn on the ground to test him, he can walk as straight, or tumble as randomly, as the mood might take him.
The things he brings to our notice are not the cliches of the 'overlooked', but the overlooked act of cognition itself - the information is there but there's always a question - why that? Why now? How do I read this? Whether the work is figurative or abstract nothing is pat. These new vulture paintings themselves seem to be simultaneously the product of an obsession and an indifference to subject.
Allen Jones once contentiously claimed his garish, objectified female nudes were simply a pretext for an experiment with colour and paint surface - 'draughtsmanship and economy of means'. Disingenuous perhaps, and certainly provocative in the 70's. Though Cope can't assume anymore our compliance or outrage at such things, these vultures will surely be parlayed by us in the 21st Century into a metaphor if we don't watch ourselves there are enough vultures hovering, after all - and this danger is one (like Jones who perhaps found sheer painting too easy, or possibly too boring) that Cope is also too well aware of.
Cope throws out image after image for us to construct or deconstruct at will. A lifeline to anyone navigating through the ice-floes of current cold one-liners or paintings with an eye on the 'market' - a lifeline to anyone wondering what it exactly is now 'to paint' and to 'read' a painting without 'irony'. Cope trusts us to actively question the work and as long as we do so, the ostensible subject can be left to drift.
He is a complete painter, of and for the future.
Art form Toggle
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