J.A.W. Cooper lives in a downtown LA studio apartment bordering the garment, jewelry, and gallery districts with her pet chinchilla Rupert. Her “Viscera” show opens at La Luz de Jesus on August 8.
Tell us about your upcoming show
The theme of this show is Viscera – the theme is not only for content but also for the execution of the pieces – for this particular show I was pushing myself to be more spontaneous and intuitive in how I worked and how I completed the pieces. With each piece I had a rough idea starting out what I wanted but I let the painting go where it wanted in the process.
How is the theme of this show different than your previous shows?
In previous shows, I mapped out exactly how the pieces would look individually and relate as a series. I wanted this show to be a bit more abstractly connected. The previous shows have had such a strong narrative running throughout, but for this show I wanted to be a little more free in how the pieces connected. “Viscera” are guts and intestines, but a “visceral experience” is an instinctual reaction to something and I wanted to bring a little bit more of that rawness, the beauty that I see in the initial works, the rough stuff in sketches, into the finished work . That’s the difference between my previous work and this series.
What inspired you to go in a more improvisational route?
I have had this iron grip over my work in previous years. I felt like I’ve exhausted that – I was pushing myself to give up a little bit of control.
The show is three weeks away and it’s complete?
It’s all done.
Are you usually this efficient?
No! In the past I was very bad at time management.
What made this one different?
I destroyed myself working on my previous show “Laid Bare” – very little sleep and food and social interaction – I’m glad I did it so that I know my limits but on this show I planned ahead to preserve my physical and mental health.
How did you re-discipline yourself?
I had most of it the work done a month ago. The looser theme was beneficial as I could work on pieces when I had the time without the burden of strategizing ahead to how each piece fit into the larger narrative. I started developing the concept a year ago, started creating the actual work nine months, and worked intensively on it for the last three months. I started early, kept a calendar, stuck to a schedule and got it done!
I have a super flexible work schedule. I usually freelance commercially five to ten days a month max so that I don’t burn out and when I have a show like this I’ll usually work a little extra early in the year then I’m free to take months off when I need it.
Let’s talk about the process in creating this show. Did you work on more than one piece at a time?
Not generally, I’ll usually have sketches for a bunch of pieces going at once but once I’m in the painting phase I usually work all the way through. Sometimes I don’t have that luxury, I’ve been doing more oil paintings and then I’ll work on a few at once so that I’m not sitting around uselessly waiting for one to dry. Conceptually I start with word lists and concepts and from there I’ll build sketches and then transfer them to the final surface with a light box or projector. This show has been more experimental in terms of execution – a lot more oil paint and a lot of mixed media.
What kind of mixed media?
I’ve started using a fun process where I’ll transfer the drawing to a paper such as Fabriano or Stonehenge, mount it to a rigid board with matte medium, and I’ll do the first half of the painting in India ink and acrylic washes. Then I seal the surface completely with GAC100 then do oil varnishes and details on top. That allows you to get speed of working with acrylics and India inks and beautiful gradients and washes, but then you get that rich depth and color of working with oils as well.
I did a lot if work directly into sketchbooks which were framed whole, open to that spread. I wanted to have that connection to sketchbooks and sketching, the rough intuitive stuff, the initial spark.
To view the online preview of J.A.W. Cooper’s upcoming August 2015 solo show at La Luz De Jesus gallery in Hollywood click here