Barry Cooper studied Philosophy at U.C.N.W. Bangor and later studied painting at the Royal College of Art, London, with Peter De Francia and John Golding.
In 1975 he began a 2-year series of oil paintings and drawings in association with the Rambert Dance Company, followed by work on a full length ballet by Glen Tetley, The Tempest, commissioned by the Welsh Arts Council. A collaboration with composer Anthony Adams for seven 6' square canvases to be used in performance, and the design of stage flats for performance poems by the Anglo Welsh Poet, Anthony Conran, were subsequently shown in a one man exhibition in the National Theatre, London in 1982. The centre-piece of the show, "The Nuclear Family", traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to be part of the UN Protection Agency's exhibition to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Stockholm Peace Conference.
The early 1980's saw two one-man shows in the October Gallery, London. A collaboration with composer Simon Holt in 1985 led to the building of a 20' x 30' Odako Japanese kite that was flown in the Bath International Festival and subsequently became the backdrop for a performance of "Kites" by the London Sinfonietta under Elgar Howarth.
Since 1982 the Longleat Estate has made a series of purchases and commissions: "Family in Wessex" - a 4' x 5' commissioned painting; purchase of "The Nuclear Family" painting in 1984; commission for "Merlin's Minstrel", a 10' high metal sculpture in 1985; "Moon Bathing" a 7' high sculpture in Oolytic Limestone in 1994 and a collaboration with Thierry Chessum on a 40' high Maypole sculpture marking the site of proposed Thynnhenge in Longleat.
1989 marked the beginning of the European Community of Stones ECOS. Collaboration with sculptor Laurence Knee led to the building of an amphitheatre on the campus of Frome Community College, Somerset, surrounded by 12 monoliths from each of the original 1992 member countries of the EEC. (The tallest is 20' high from Spain and the heaviest is 30 tonnes from Belgium).
In 1995 a collaboration with composer Nigel Osborne began in the Demarco European Arts Foundation in Edinburgh, called "Hieroglyphs - Serendipity"; a short film for Channel 4 followed in the summer of 1996 on the amphitheatre with 72 school children across the age range, and in the 1997 Edinburgh Festival an installation was made in the Demarco Gallery culminating in a performance of Nigel's music in the 1998 Cheltenham Festival.
During 1998 and 1999 Barry collaborated with Laurence Parnell on 9 Waymarkers for the Wells/Glastonbury route for cyclists and walkers, sponsored by Sustrans and the National Lottery in partnership with Foster Yeoman Limited. Each standing stone contains a bronze arch supporting a bell. Each bell is a different note creating an 8-mile long musical instrument. In July 1999, 300 school children led by Adam Hart-Davis, a television science and cycling enthusiast, made a one-day pilgrimage from Wells to Glastonbury.
Other commissions in 1998 included Aerolith, a 2 tonne stone sculpture in the form of a Dolmen or Cromlech, based on an image of flight and making direct reference to the sculptor Brancusi, sited on the campus of Frome Community College.
In 1999 Barry collaborated with composer, Helen Ottaway, and video artist Al Morrison, in a theatre performance entitled "Round and Round": a sequence of 12 paintings were video projected onto a screen behind Helen while she performed 12 short piano pieces which were related to specific areas of the colour spectrum. This was subsequently performed in the Salisbury Festival 2001 and a boxed CD has been made containing the 12 images as cards.
During the summer of 1999 a 7ft high Doulting Stone dragon was commissioned for Rode First School. The image is seated cross-legged echoing the Oriental figure of Hotei, a symbol of repletion and contentment; it has a marsupial pouch within which to hoard treasure in the tradition of Grendel, the Anglo Saxon dragon in Beowulf.
The following year saw ECOS 2000, the culmination of the European Community of Stones Project. This was funded jointly by the Millennium Commission and Foster Yeoman Ltd. In June of 2000 a video installation completed a European wide virtual sculpture linking young people across Europe from each of the stone bearing communities, juxtaposing the Neolithic with the 21st Century in a Festival generated by the silicon chip. Based in a Megalithic site, this microstone piece is the means to ensure that the culmination of ECOS is one of continuing communication between young people from 12 different geological locations in Europe for the future. It is a transcontinental musical instrument with 12 internet strings, stretching between the sites in Europe.
In Somerset Arts Week during September 2000 Barry created an installation in Biddlecombe Woods near Wells, alongside other artists. The piece was called Items from a Lost World: a tribute to Joseph Beuys which consisted of 7 Oak Tree Totems leading to laminated computer images lodged as detritus in the undergrowth and river to mark the "End of the 20th Century".
A life-size Rock Art commission funded by the Poetry Society in London completed the year 2000. "Our Lady of the Mendips" stands alongside other stones in a community poetry/sculpture trail, initiated by Mendip District Council, for disabled people in the Collett Park in Shepton Mallet. It is a carving that juxtaposes Shaun Jackson's poem with a Gaia image on Carboniferous Limestone.
In April 2001 Barry exhibited with the group '6s and 7s' in the Walcott Chapel in Bath. An installation called 'Portes', The Gates, made reference, through an Oak arch, small stone sculptures in sand and paintings echoing the translucent effect of stained glass, to the disastrous ferry accident which occurred at the harbour entrance to Greek island of Paros in September 2000.
During the Frome Festival in July 2001 he again showed with '6s and 7s' in the redundant factory of Cooper Bussman in Frome Somerset; working on large canvases entitled 'Bird of Paros', to echo Frome's links with Greece combining with the Phoenix for the dying factory site.
In the autumn of 2001 he began working on the exhibition ‘Genesis’ with Aristides Varrias, a sculptor from the Greek island of Paros in the Aegean sea, who works in Parian Marble, which 2000 years ago provided the material for the most famous Greek sculptures of antiquity: The Venus de Milo, Laocoon, and the Elgin Marbles. The exhibition was held in February 2000 in the Hellenic Centre in London as a conversation between Barry’s paintings, as archetypal voices of the ECOS stones in Frome, and Aristides’ carved heads, ‘Flowers of Stone’. The exhibition linked the amphitheatre in Frome across Europe to Paros, the birthplace of the Greek stone on the ECOS site.
In May 2002 Barry collaborated with Jim Shiner on Pathways in Stone: this sculpture, which is spread over four miles, consists of seven monolithic boundary stones for the village of Aldeby in Norfolk, involving a dialogue between elemental Christian symbols and the Runic language, pathways which allow you to travel physically between stones, and mentally into the layers of meaning in the icons.
For Somerset Art Week in September 2002 he had an installation outside his studio at Marston House, near Frome, consisting of images painted on newspaper from September 12th 2001. These haunting images based around the bird and the goddess, as archetypal symbols in ‘rock art’ for the last 7000 years, were a contribution to the necessary healing process demanded by the polarisation of world politics at that time.
From January 2003 – April 2004 Barry worked on the Holm Oak – Tree of Life extension and completion of the ECOS amphitheatre, as a bridge across Europe between 12 similar small communities linked geologically by the monoliths on the ECOS amphitheatre. He designed a bank behind the stage which supports 11 Holm oak trees, and has carved a 4 metre high Portland stone Tree of Life which stands as the 12th tree to symbolise a forum for peace and friendship across a continent which for centuries has been at war. The Oak tree, as the traditional focus of European culture and ritual, is juxtaposed with the standing stone, so much in evidence in our Neolithic past, to make a 21st century forum allowing young people to create the future.