“I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be a shadow” – Sylvia Plath from‘The Bell Jar’
In his recent body of work, ‘Chasing Shadows’, Michael Cooper draws his inspiration from nature not just for what it appears on the surface, but for the striking shadows cast within it. No matter the season, shadows enhance and enrich the beauty of the scene, and it is this natural but sometimes fantastical element which he harnesses in his pieces.
Cooper’s shadow collection acts as a visual metaphor for the inherent beauty in shadows themselves, as through his technique, he aims to literally capture and replicate shadow. It is this romantic element, something he describes as originating from Peter Pan, which really captured him initially and makes his collection so unique.
Cooper’s work comes in four print sizes, all of which are an accumulation of a variety of innovative printing techniques. For smaller prints, Cooper uses etching to print the shadow, and then develops the piece with wide stripes of colour. For the larger works, some reaching two-metres, he replicates the shadows directly onto the paper or perspex, sometimes drawing with original materials such as sellotape. He then develops the piece into a rich and textured finished article by embossing it with raising fluid and adding layers of ink onto to the print. These layers create contours and ridges, replicating the trenches of bark or the veins of a tree, almost giving the shadows a body of their own and printing the essence of what a shadow truly is: no longer merely light distorted by something else, but beauty in its own right.
Using Hyde Park as his setting, Cooper explores the seasons in a collection which captures the shadows cast by the icicles of winter, the patterns generated by Spring-time buds, the gold and silver glow of sunlight through summer-rich leaves. Thus these one-off prints are whimsically juxtaposed against a selection of seasonal backgrounds, exploring the seasonal changes that many expatriates from greener climates romanticise about when living abroad.
Cooper’s ‘Chasing Shadows’ is both romantic and haunting in capturing the cool and mystery of the shadow-world.