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> > > Simon Cooper: My Virtual Reality World

Flowing 3, by Simon Cooper.

Simon Cooper explores the dilemma between hand-made and technology-made printmaking and looks at ways of combining the two processes.

I am fascinated by colour, particularly computer binary colours. I am interested in the combination of computer technology and printmaking and how it has evolved. Initially my aim was to become a BA fine art painter. However, I was encouraged by tutors to push beyond the boundary of painting and drawing. I found a liking, once again, for screen-printing. It was a wondrous feeling, and the inspiration for my dissertation, The impact of Digital Edition and Giclée (reproduction) Printmaking on the world of Fine Art.

Colour is very personal and gives a spiritual energy to my work. Combining colour, line, shape, space, and composition to create unity and harmony and to convey meaning and mood. Identifying colour relationships, different white textured papers or canvas are used to evoke an emotional response. My eyes are used additionally, because of my deafness, to scrutinise colour more attentively. My influences are artists such as Sir Terry Frost, Bridget Riley, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close and Victor Vasarely. I also apply the principles of Colourists, Josef Albers and Johannes Ittens. I used to be a perfectionist but this made me tense in my work. I would try too hard and abandon the project as a whole. Nowadays I try to keep my work loose and flowing.

Flowing 3: image description


Movement, by Simon Cooper.

My path lies with semi-abstract and abstract art. The public is often bewildered by the work of artists like Jackson Pollock, the American free flowing abstract artist; Piet Mondrian, the Dutch abstract linear artist, and Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, Cubist and a dazzling printmaker himself. Our world is made up of accelerated movement and overabundant information. This is reflected in the way images are broken down into semi-abstract or abstract forms. It is a way of deceiving the viewer by changing the perception of the real world into confusion. It is my intention to have people engaged in a confusing process in my virtual reality world. Images are enlarged and broken up into dots and pixels so that they often lose their own identities.

The idea is also about mark making - using paintbrush, print, or pencil to create the image of a form using its digital appearance. I've been exploring this theme using digital night photography, of moving vehicle headlamps. I deliberately move the camera, in a brushstroke movement, in front of oncoming vehicles. The vehicles headlamps create a flow of digital marks. Traditional mark making is something that we can see, and feel by running our fingers over it. Perhaps we can pick it up on our fingers and even smell it. The speeds of marks are controlled by the wrist and hand including the amount of pressure that is applied to the surface. Digital mark making is entirely different. It is hidden in the computer hard drive after the images have been downloaded from the camera and can only be seen when the image is previewed on a screen. We cannot touch it, feel it or smell it. Even a printout is a duplicate of the original, on the hard drive and is made up of binary codes.

Movement: Image description

A black rectangle with a streak of white ovals reminiscent of headlights surging from the bottom left background toward the top right foreground. They increase in size and distance from each other as they reach towards the top right. A beautiful square of multicoloured pixelated opalescent bands floats in front of the steak of white ovals. A swirling splash of gold yellow streaks above the coloured square from right to left continuing downwards diagonally across it and ending just below it. A couple of streaky splashes of the same colour fly out from the main splash across the surface of the coloured square.

Combining hand-made and technology-made printmaking

Sunset by Simon Cooper.

We can identify the screen, because it is made up of pixels or dots. However, inkjet printers create flat colour. Being torn between hand made work and digital made work I sometimes combine both of them in my work.

Walter Benjamin, was a German-Jewish philosopher and critic. In his treatise The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, he puts forward the argument that the discovery of photography in 1840, threatened the value of handmade works of art such as prints, paintings and objects that require the specialized skills of the artist's hand. Benjamin pointed out that the aura and the uniqueness of the art object was lost in reproduction.

However, computers allow me to go beyond the restrictions of traditional creative techniques and alter our perceptions, pushing modern technology to extremes proclaiming a new aesthetic. For centuries, artists and printmakers have manually laboured to produce limited edition prints with the technology available to them as Paul Valéy quoted:

In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bring about an amazing change in our very notion of art.

Valéy's quote led me to take a bold step. For my final year show, I used a wide inkjet printer with pigment inks onto four canvases with wooden frame supports and two inkjet prints with traditional screen prints on top. My tutors praised me on my final year work last year and I managed to sell one to Clerical Medical. I have been selected as one of the 25 places out of 1,500 graduates from East England for April 2006 with a new body of work for St Edmunds Gallery, Platform 6 in Suffolk experimenting in digital and screen-printing.

Sunset: Image description

Three surfaces collide. The surfaces or planes are composed of parallel rows of oval shapes. A surface of bright blue ovals flies across the top of frame from left to right. The ovals get smaller as the surface moves backwards. A surface of darker blue ovals intersects it at right angles in the top right corner. A surface of pinkish-magenta ovals runs from behind the top surface downwards towards the bottom foreground, running across bright yellow rectangular shapes. The whole composition bounces with light.

Related links

You can preview upcoming graduates' work Platform 6 at
Simon Cooper's site can be previewed at