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Meet Cooper, the Indiana-Based Artist Creating Scenes of Domestic Bliss

“The work is me, I am painting me”

When Andrew Cooper was a child, his grandparents had a record player on which they’d play albums that became the soundtrack to his most formative years. Creativity drove him from a young age, and the shapes and silhouettes associated with this household object became imprinted on his mind, and would later become a signature motif throughout his large-scale paintings.

Born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, Andrew – who now goes by the moniker of just “Cooper” – has moved around quite a bit, but now works and lives back in his home state. His studio and flat are located in the same building – with the studio part gradually entrenching further and further into the living quarters, particularly given that some of his pieces can reach great heights. It seems that this live-work blend inspires the scenes he paints too: “the work is me, I am painting me,” he says.

We chat just as his debut solo show opened at Maddox Gallery in London’s Westbourne Grove. Gallery director Jay Rutland had spotted Cooper on Instagram, and the pair struck up a conversation, which lead to the show, which is titled “White Noise”, and takes over the gallery’s two floors. Upstairs, giant ceramic cacti are instantly visible from street level, with the brightly colored paintings facing outward onto the street as a way of enticing passersby. Indeed, they do, and as we walk around the space, many visitors take a peek inside, before spending half an hour or so browsing the works.

Cooper’s aspirations are astronomical. Upon speaking to him, his ability to describe his passion for what he does, while being genuinely honest about the ways in which he creates is impressive. His inspirations, though, remain humble. The mundanity of life and the objects that provide simple anchor points for day-to-day joy become the talismans of his paintings. Tiny potted plants, books that he has on his own shelves, patterned wallpapers, record sleeves, speakers, and sound systems – all have been adopted by the artist into a kit of parts, which is assembled across the canvas in any number of formations. From his beginnings in graphic design to using his art practice to combat anxiety – Cooper takes us on the journey of how he arrived here, in West London, for a solo show at Maddox Gallery, which is on view through November 20.

Your background is in design – what did your journey to fine art look like?

I studied graphic design at art school, which is why I think you can see that strong design element coming through in my works. I always wanted to paint but my parents wouldn’t send me to school for that. They said ‘you have to go to design school because you can get a job!’

Instagram has really helped with getting noticed. It’s how Jay [Rutland, Maddox Gallery’s director] found out about my work too. I don’t even have a website, so it’s my number one way to showcase finished paintings to the world. I would put a painting on there and sell it the first day.

How did that design background help you or influence you?

In a practical sense, I felt super lucky to have a design background, because I never had to ask anyone to do any branding stuff for me. I knew how to brand myself, and how to do my own logo and imagery and all of that stuff. But inspiration-wise, I am super into mid-century modern design and bohemian jungalow styles. I get a bunch of interior magazines, and I’m constantly ripping pages out and taking elements from them to work from – like color combinations, or pieces of furniture.

What does your typical process entail?

I start with a pencil, and when I’ve sketched out about 50% of the piece, I’ll start painting. Then I’ll fill in where I think the rest seems to be. I tend to have at least half of the painting done mentally, and then I go around it to fill in parts and give the piece some rhythm.

Can you tell me more about your relationship with music and how it comes through in the work?

I listen to music basically 24/7 and have a bunch of speakers in my studio. I’m a super anxious person, but when I started painting the repeated speaker motifs for my work, I found it to be super meditative. Then, I’d sit in front of it for a while and become very embedded in the shapes – it’s very zen-like, and it just calms me down.

I’d say one of the biggest personal things in my work is this HiFi stereo here, which is a childhood memory from my grandparents’ house. They had a 1966 Magnavox, and everyone would come over for Christmas or Easter, and my grandpa would put records – but nobody else was allowed to touch it.

“You really can’t pigeonhole the people who respond to my paintings”

Talk us through your studio space.

It’s a two-story loft, which is over 100 years old and is an old biscuit factory. I live downstairs and upstairs is the studio. I probably have about 10 paintings going on at once up there. But maybe two months into creating works for the show, I actually had to take the living room furniture, and move it basically into the kitchen. My girlfriend came home one day, and was like ‘what’s going on?!’ I’m like, ‘I need more space!’ So now I have two studios basically, upstairs and downstairs, because my paintings are so big.

Have you noticed any trends among the people collecting your work?

I have a lot of collectors in Taiwan, China, and Korea. I was exhibiting a piece in Seoul with Maddox Gallery recently, and a collector – who was a 29-year-old doctor – had flown out, especially for it. I literally couldn’t believe it. Then, at my show opening in London, there were people who were well into their 50s – so it seems you really can’t pigeonhole the people who respond to the paintings.

I imagine this is maybe the most intense period of creating work that you’ve had. How was that?

It was very intense. I mean, with this many paintings and only nine months, plus – this is my first exhibition ever. I wouldn’t choose to do it this fast and intensely again, but I have loved the process at the same time.

What about the ceramic cacti pieces, how were they made and where did that idea come from?

I had a collector, maybe two years ago, who had a house in Cabo, Mexico, which was literally right in the middle of cactus fields. So they kind of come from that memory of my time there, but also there’s a philosophical element in which as an artist, and just as a human in general, you need to get through life. To do so, you’ve got to be strong and bold and stand up for yourself.

I have tonnes of cactuses in my studio, little baby ones, and big ones. They already feature heavily in my paintings, but I decided to create them in ceramic for this show, and they were made by a company that Yayoi Kusama uses to create sculptures.

What other artists do you admire?

David Hockney is my idol. He really showed me the usage of color – I mean, he didn’t show me personally, I’ve never met him, this is just from looking at his works and studying the books I have on them. Otherwise, I love Hilary Pecis, Mark Paul Deren aka Madsteez, Greg Mike – there’s too many to mention!

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