This photograph forms part of the series A Quality of Dancing commissioned by Tate St Ives for Thomas Joshua Cooper’s exhibition At the Very Edges of the World in 2001. The composition is dominated by a large rock formation on the right hand side of the image and the white spray where the waves break against it. The dark expanse of water is punctuated by a number of smaller rocks bordered in spray.
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. Cooper has worked exclusively in the landscape since 1969, and the documentary and exploratory nature of the photographs he makes on his 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.
While Quality of Dancing is a suite of three photographs, the works can also be displayed separately. When displayed together, the artist has specified his preference for them being ordered with Tate P20231 on the left, Tate P20232 in the middle, and Tate P20233 on the right.
Susan Daniel-McElroy, Thomas Joshua Cooper: at the very edges of the world, exhibition catalogue, Tate St Ives, 2001.
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.