Sightings within the whole shebang

Discussing the work of Australian artist Jarryd Cooper

Blockprojects Gallery (2019), Melbourne

Jarryd Cooper, 
Geist, 2019. Oil on canvas. Photo: Chris Bowes.

Perhaps we can do everything at once? In our times where all things seem to be perpetually unfolding, fragmentary and replete with changing perspectives, it certainly feels like we should. Perhaps we should be understanding and expressing all things at all times, wholeheartedly embracing an internet frame of mind. The English philosopher Peter Osbourne, in thinking about how we might grasp the character of our times, considers that our current period can be understood through conjunctions (Osborne, 2018). Referred to as contemporaneity, we experience the coming together of different but equally present temporary states. Therefore everything, the whole shebang, all societal political events and cultural occurrences are now seemingly formed within one labyrinthine and free flowing ever changing movement as an ongoing fragmented flow of everything; but not really heading anywhere, just changing.

We can recognize that during our current times everything forms and reforms, and then retro forms. So, in speculating that this is simply how things are for us, that this is a phenomenon of our contemporaneity a continuing condition of flux and moving progression may simply be something we can’t evade; something that we are in. Thinking culturally, contemporary Russian theorist Boris Groys suggests that some of the most effective creative expressions of the current period appear to escape being caught in the stasis of a singularity in time by expressing a state of ‘flow’ or change, and that this may be pivotal to the cultural production of these times (Groys, 2016). Jarryd Cooper’s paintings are distinctly relevant to this phenomenon, forming as they do through complex and variable ingredients that seem to shift and configure through realignments. Jarryd’s visually compelling paintings are full of divergent coalitions and conditions, fused and harmonised through composition and the elements of colour and touch, but also fragmented through the incongruity of the associations within the imagery. To a large extent his work seems to suggest a wacky and esoteric spiritualism.

Jarryd’s paintings traverse visual references ranging from Symbolism, various styles from the early avant-garde period, along with conjurations of design and illustration. For example, Brand New Eye (2019) appears to be some form of fusion between 1960’s psychedelic graphic design combined with the enigma and evocativeness of Symbolism. Notably, this fusion in the imagery in Jarryd’s works feels as though it has developed through free association, various unsolidified awarenesses and shifting sentiences that materialized during the process of making the paintings. Jarryd’s paintings are delicate, lightly touched, sanded with applied transparent or flatly painted shapes, along with subtle liquid bleeds of paint to remind us of the symbiotic fluidity of paint and change, thought and the imaginary. Painting can form as you make it. It can develop through the effects and associations of one thing after another, and therefore paintings of this type arrive, or coalesce through time, grasps and insights.

New Eye is missing a body. Its housed within a curved and flesh coloured form, energised with painted texture and caught up in an enveloping churning and radiating expanse of fragmentation. The optic ‘peeper’ depicted in this work, which seems curiously equivalent to a corresponding flower like design, intently stares up and beyond to a space outside the range of the picture plane – a location that might somehow reside separate to the relentless and unfolding variances within which it is caught. This painting seems to be an eruption of enigmatic imagery and energies, presenting a moment within an unknowable and awe-inspiring phenomenon. As we contemplate this work, we are in the ‘flow’, a passage, something within which there is no arrival, only ever the repeated glimpsing and experiencing of unfolding time.

The title of one of Jarryd’s paintings indicates that glimpses of what we are in is all that’s possible. For instance, Geist (2019) which is the German word for ghost, is a starburst that we can’t really see, but only imagine, because what we visually experience is a design - not a depiction or the transmission of energy. In encountering this image, we recognise that the imagery is as much a schematic as it is painting, where energy seems represented, arrested in design and balance, and the nuances of colour and touch; that the manifestation of the spirit or energy of a starburst, an enigmatic event, can only ever be alluded to within the bounds of painting and its elements. We are left with an understanding that painting can sometimes at best, be a vicarious representation of inexplicable things. So Illicium Verum (2019), named after the tree that bears anise-scented star-shaped fruit, gently and mollifyingly materialising and imaged as an otherworld alternative, is a place that can only ever be indirectly constituted.

Jarryd excavates or reforms fragments and reverberations of what has gone before, or what could be, in order to evoke new viewpoints out of a myriad of references, some of which are stylistic echoes from the history of modern painting. Indicative of this, Tumult, (2019) is a deluge of free-flowing all over-ness – a kind of ‘everything-ism’. For fear that the ‘flow’ in Tumult might just change before our eyes, the energized dynamic fragments of ‘everything-ism’ have to seemingly be held in check, balanced and stabilised through the placement of the two horizontal levelling or ballast forms. Tumult feels as though there is a multiplied sense to things. Jarryd’s idiosyncratic and esoteric paintings seem to define a consuming hyperpresence of various enigmatic fusions, some of which could be described as preternatural. Boris Groys, in echoing French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s ideas that the present can be defined as ‘… a procession of presences’ (Groys, 2009) considers that we live within a period of time that might best be described as uncanny, where we are more preoccupied than we have ever been with our ever-changing present. While we unconsciously and consciously focus on comprehending what this might be, as with Jarryd’s paintings we are within varying states of passage, flux and drift.

        Peter Westwood

Osbourne, P., (2018), The Postconceptual Condition: Critical Essays, Verso, London, UK; New York, USA, p.19
Groys, B. (2016), In the Flow, Verso, London, UK
Groys, B., (2009), ‘Comrades of Time’, e-flux Journal, No 11 

© Peter Westwood 2020