Monday, 21 May 2018

PHOEBE COPE, Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum, till May 31st.

The art world is a complex place, but always invigorating. I am lucky to see art worldwide. One day mega Kiefer at the crowded Rockefeller Centre Manhattan, 
next minute Phoebe Cope's paintings of her life around Coulter Fell, an isolated, exposed but shapely part of a rolling range of high hills of the Scottish Uplands.

Kiefer symbol in lead takes an overall world view, his huge, dominating awe-inspiring, fearsome book, stick and snake, proving fearsome to many, (but to me reminiscent of the powerful doctor's symbol of medicine, stick & snake.) 

In the lovely gallery space at the new(ish) Upper Clydesdale Museum in Biggar Cope relies on a close, personal but recognizably fundamental view of life, familiar to us all.  
In Cope's pictures all humanity is there - the cycle of life with raw nature, 
babies, animals, farming in all weathers, the seasons with winter chill and lush summer blooms, 
intense purple heather one year never to be again, last years brittle discarded Xmas tree put out to rot, toys scattered on the floor. Details of a life well lived and even better observed.
Cope says she relies on instinct. As the daughter of a vigorous painter she is well schooled, as a mother she knows the reality of children which is reflected in her impressive self portrait 
 

Study at Oxford's Ruskin plus study and teaching at the Prince's, now Royal Drawing School, followed and has empowered her vision of this unique landscape 



which has become over the past decades more denuded of its heather and any shrubby trees, as there have been an increasing number of sheep put on the hills.
Yet, loving 'copious colour,' her hills are alive. I particularly admired 'Book Press, Black Hill & Coulter Fell' seen from her window. Never has the Hill been less black! As she says, "It's interesting to see the shapes of the hills with some of their iron age forts and cultivation terraces, so tightly grazed by sheep, and poc marked by rabbit warrens,"  
A lively life informs all her work, creative mark making at its best. It beautifully captures their garden, sycamore in snow, sheets drying, sunflowers, oystercatchers, even scaffolding. She aims for honesty before prettiness, truth before the picturesque. 
Cope's work has a generosity of spirit that is endearing. I warmly advise u to see this show if you can. Good painting is rare to find these days. She is hugely professional - and her work has won prizes and been exhibited with the Royal Academy, Royal Hibernian Academy, Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the Gordon W Smith Exhibition, the Machin Art Foundation, Cill Rialaig Project, the Moritz-Heyman Pignano Award, Ruth Borchard Exhibition at Piano Nobile, the Lynn Painter Stainers, the Campaign for Drawing & the Oireachtas.  
Her work is represented in the collections of Office of Public Works, the Bank of Ireland, the Blackrock Clinic, HRH the Prince of Wales,  as well as numerous private collections.

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