Summary

This work is a version of an image from Cooper’s four-part The Eclipse Suite 11 August 1999, which he has altered tonally and cropped slightly differently, removing some of the image from the right and top. The work is also printed on a much larger scale than the original version. While Cooper does not usually rework images, the importance of The Eclipse Suite to his recent practice led him to revisit this image. Like another work in Tate’s collection, The Swelling of the Sea | Furthest West - The Atlantic Ocean | Point Ardnamurchan, Scotland | The Western-most Point of Mainland Great Britain 1990 (Tate P78706), this image is representative of Cooper’s body of photographs which show the view from the furthermost edges of the British Isles. In this image, the ocean appears to be almost still. The rocks act like blocks of tone in a geometric abstract painting. The purplish tinge to the shadows is created by Cooper’s application of chemicals to the surface of the black and white print.

Cooper frequently composes his scenes in such a way that the horizon line is invisible, resulting in an experience of immersion in the landscape. This concern with the immersive nature of the work links him to the tradition of Romantic and Sublime painting. He says:

‘I am interested in making an intelligent art of high emotion with a specific cultural purpose. There are issues of the spirit which involve longing and belonging which reverberate through all of the work, I approach this lyric tradition through gazing, duration is an essential condition of gazing, it infuses all of the pictures that I make.’ (‘Thomas Joshua Cooper - an interview with David Bellingham February 1998’, Source, Issue 14)

The documentary and exploratory nature of Cooper’s photographs, taken on expeditions, references nineteenth century American photography, and he can also be seen as continuing the lineage of land artists such as Richard Long (born 1945) and Hamish Fulton (born 1946), in the sense of his mapping the extremities of the land. There are references too to modernist painting, such as the work of the Abstract Expressionists and colour-field painters.

Further reading:
Thomas Joshua Cooper: point of no return, exhibition catalogue, Haunch of Venison, London, 2004.
Morgan Falconer, ‘Thomas Joshua Cooper: The World’s Edge – The Atlantic Basin Project’, Portfolio Magazine, no. 40, December 2004, pp.34-41.
Susan Daniel-McElroy, Thomas Joshua Cooper: at the very edges of the world, exhibition catalogue, Tate St Ives, 2001, reproduced p.1.

Maria Bilske
February 2006