For his exhibition Layers at the Silk Mill Gallery, Barry Cooper isolates two geometric forms, the circle and the crescent to use as a commentary upon the long and littered history of cultural and social ideas starting with the earliest origins of mankind but leading all the way up to our contemporary age.
Initially there is planetary creation and formation of satellites as moons. As human society develops, the iconography of the sun and moon embark upon a shifting pattern of meaning which includes worship, the sun’s sanctity as the source of all life and the building of structures such as Stonehenge that celebrate solar solstice and equinox.
An agrarian based diet and new farming methods bring calendars to the fore and we begin to experience relegation or rearrangement of previous ideas. As individuals, no longer spending the majority of ours lives caring for crops, mankind embarks upon a more scientific notation of the heavens. The symbols of the circle and crescent begin to acquire obsolete associations. Yet as a circle crosses and overlaps to make a series of crescents so a cultural idea or position may pass over or beneath other ideas and positions.
Barry refers to these currents of cyclical interplay as layers. His view is that we experience a cyclical passage from layer upon layer of previous beliefs; customs and practices that influence us through our ancestors. Ultimately, he regards the phases of the sun and moon as a metaphor for phases of human thought. Each one of us becomes involved in the process of connection and re-identification via these fundamental objects. The music is from Helen Ottaway’s composition, Round and Round which inscribes cyclical resolution into the exhibition by answering the series of twelve colours with a circle of twelve tones.
We also observe how an internal clash of different cultural ideas can underpin many present day conflicts. Opposites which we perceive to be outside ourselves are also within us. Barry’s approach takes us into colour combinations within the colour wheel that fight each other across the border of image and ground. Colours and complimentaries juxtapose causing natural disturbances in the eye during contemplation.
The challenge that the artist has set himself is to find a fundamental commonality. By putting the circle and the crescent centre stage, Barry assembles and describes mutual points of departure and return, which he continues in black and white on the floor of the gallery.
Supported by: Frome Sign Company, Fiat Lux lighting specialists.