The Wiggly, Wavy Joy of Cooper at Maddox Gallery

Words by
Fiona McCarthy

12th October 2022

Ahead of his first international show Wild Noise launching this week at Maddox Gallery for Freize, artist Andrew Cooper talks to Fiona McCarthy about being inspired by Takashi Murakami and creating pieces that are ‘are joyful, vibrant and positive.’

There is something deeply comforting, yet compelling, about the way visual artist Andrew Cooper — now widely known just as Cooper — captures the minutiae of everyday life. Celebrating the commonplace beauty of speaker stacks and collections of potted plants, funky wallpaper and mid-century consoles, living room nooks and piles of books, his large-scale canvases resonate with irrepressible joy.

Discovered by Jay Rutland, creative director of leading gallery Maddox, as he was swiping through Instagram during the pandemic, Cooper is part of a new generation of contemporary painters, including Los Angeles-based Hilary Pecis and Jonas Wood, who are elevating daily domesticity to high art. This new movement focuses on working with saturated colours and precisely defined objects, layered within worlds of overlapping, distorting perspectives and clever shadow play, to create scenes within scenes that really pop.

Close Up on Shelf, by Cooper

Close Up on Shelf, by Cooper

Close Up on Shelf, Cooper, at Maddox Gallery from October 14th

Cooper was born in Indiana and is currently based there. His subject matter is particularly personal, combining the things that he’s interested in with those that surround him, ensuring his work remains constantly new and fresh. His compositions might include books with spines marked by the names of cities that he longs to visit, such as Paris, or the variety of plants that sit on his shelves at home. The hi-fi stereo, fast becoming one of Cooper’s signature motifs, is a beloved reminder of time spent in his grandparents’ basement, playing records on their old 1960s stereo as a special treat when the extended family got together during the holidays.

Yet these scenes of interior bliss are a long way from where Cooper first started building a reputation as a “travelling muralist”, first in Miami and then in Los Angeles, where he brought large-scale designs to life across buildings. Having moved to Florida fresh out of art school in 2016 to work on album covers and billboards for a record label, Cooper was instantly inspired by the famous street art district of Wynwood, where the company was based. “I would go home at night and try to get my own art going because I’d decided I really wanted to be an artist,” he remembers.

Soothing by Cooper at Maddox Gallery
Soothing by Cooper, part of his show Wild Noise at Maddox Gallery

With the money he earned during the week, Cooper bought the paint he needed to create murals at the weekend, practising on walls advertised in the classifieds on Craigslist. “I was super-broke the whole year, trying to find myself in the work because I was so inspired,” he says. “Wynwood was mind-blowing, but after a year I knew I needed to stop working [the day job] and put all my time into creating art.”

So he packed up, and “with what little money I had, came back to Indiana, got my buddies and moved out to Los Angeles,” Cooper says. “From then on I just made it happen with my own work, hustling out.” In Los Angeles, where the influences of sun, sea, surf and skate culture inevitably threaded their way through the modern art scene, he developed Wildflower, a vibrant flower motif with a human eye at its centre (akin to the cartoonish strangler fig in Little Shop of Horrors, without the menacing teeth) mixed with the upbeat feel of one of Takashi Murakami’s smiling flowers.

Cooper's Wavy Mirror at Maddox Gallery
Wavy Mirror

“Los Angeles is about finding one thing that becomes your logo and brand, so I started drawing it in different colours, different patterns, and putting it online,” Cooper explains. Collaborations with brands such as Coach NY, Adidas and Vans soon followed, as well as commissions for WeTransfer, decorating the façade of its Venice Beach office. In 2018, Cooper worked with the late American rapper Nipsey Hussle to transform the run-down basketball court of his former elementary school in the south of the city, supported by one of Puma’s charitable campaigns.

The whimsical court design was designed to be “fun for the kids to play on, joyful, vibrant, and positive,” Cooper says.

Fly Away by Cooper
Fly Away

“I really started to build up some nice collaborations but I reached a point where it just grew too repetitive for me. I needed something more,” he reflects. He was mentally drained too. “Everyone was only talking about likes and followers; it was depressing. I needed to leave.” So two years later, Cooper once again packed his bags and returned to Indiana. “I wanted
to move on to the gallery world. I had a vision for painting still lives, so I knew
I just had to buy canvases and start seeing what was going to happen.”
Signing with Maddox late last year and preparing for his forthcoming first international show this autumn has been “a radical transformation” for the artist. “When I started to work on pieces for the show in January, I only had two ideas on paper, and I’ve been working on the fly ever since,” he laughs.

Rutland believes Cooper is going to be “a huge star”, and says, “I just love the aesthetic of his work, his wonderful colour palette, and the way he presents himself to the world. There’s an endearing innocence about him and his work.”

As a child, Cooper’s artistic talent came naturally, but remained largely unexplored thanks to a typical childhood obsession with sports, including basketball, football and golf. While he knew he wasn’t going to become a famous sportsman — “I was short and not that fast,” Cooper chuckles — the business classes he was doing in his first year at college hadn’t felt right either.

When Cooper transferred to another college the following year, he remembered how much fun he’d had in art classes and enrolled immediately in the art school. One of only 30 students to be accepted, he opted to focus on graphic design. It taught him many of the techniques he
uses today. “I always wanted to be hands- on, not reliant on working with a computer, because otherwise the work felt like it had no real connection to me,” he explains. “Now, with these big canvases I’m working on and the way I paint, I want it to be wiggly, I want it to be funky.”

Looking to the work of artists such as David Hockney has helped to free him
from convention. “David’s super-bright, radical colours opened my mind to realising I can express any emotion I want through colour,” Cooper says. “I can paint a stereo blue, or I can paint it brown like it is in real life. It’s a painting, it’s not reality, so I can do whatever I want.”

The result is that Cooper never paints any two pieces the same way, even if the subject is something as simple as a bowl of oranges — “trying to make that satisfying enough to stand on its own,” he says. “When someone looks at my work, I want them to feel alive inside, to be overwhelmed by the positive emotion radiating from the canvas.” Matisse, he
says, “was always trying to paint into the unknown. That’s what I’m trying to do too. I love the challenge of finding new depths and perspectives every time.”

White Noise is at Maddox, Westbourne Grove from 14 October – 20 November

112 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 5RU | [email protected] | +44 (0) 207 989 0304