MARCUS COPE ‘Made in Lempa’

28 May – 1 June 2014
(private view Thursday 29 May 6 – 9 pm

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?


Marcus Cope, born 1980 in Bath. He lives and works in London. He completed his Masters at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London (2006). This is his third solo exhibition at studio1.1, following Carrion (2011) and Don’t Fill My Head With Your Subversive Nonsense (2010). Recent solo exhibitions include ‘My First New York Show: Looked Good on Paper’ (2013) and Marcus Cope (2012) both at Neue Froth Kunsthalle. Recent group exhibitions include Things you don’t do/things you do do at Bath School of Art and Design Gallery (2014); Signs of the City, Drawing Room in collaboration with UBM PLC, London (2013); MINGLES CALYPSUS / MUNGLES CORPUS at Neue Froth Kunsthalle, Brighton (2013); Untitled 1: Glitch at Peacock Projects, London (2013); Painterly Effluvia at Norman Rea Gallery, York (2012); and Civil Twiglight at Boetzelaer and Nispen, London (2011).

Cope’s work was included in the recent Thames and Hudson publication Nature Morte by Michael Petry.