CHRIS FREMANTLE

What art have I seen? The World’s Edge

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on September 18, 2021

Thomas Joshua Cooper’s exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is of his emptiness and extremity works.

Over the course of the last three decades, the American-born photographer has travelled around the globe, making photographs of the most extreme points and locations surrounding the Atlantic Ocean.

The result is an episodic journey that covers five continents: Europe, Africa, North America, South America and Antarctica. Cooper has set foot on uncharted land masses through his work, contributing to cartography and earning him naming rights of previously unknown islands and archipelagos. The only artist to have ever made photographs of the two poles, Cooper refers to this body of work as The World’s Edge — The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity.

The photographer, who was born in California but who has lived in Scotland for many years, having founded Glasgow School of Art’s Fine Art Photography Department in 1982, first exhibited The World’s Edge at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His first monographic exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland is based upon that presentation, with 35 pictures featuring i

Fascinating because Cooper mostly looks down to capture the edge of the land and the sea. The long exposures mean that the land, the rocks are crisp, whilst the sea is blurred, in motion, of a different visual quality. But curiously there is a sameness to the images, largely without human features. The extreme edge of land and sea isn’t made characterful as in tourist photography. The Carribean and the North most Scottish Isles are similar. Perhaps you can tell the colder places from the warmer. For a project about travel there is no touristic characterisation. The three walls of polar works, really mostly white with some revealed rock texture, are exquisite and meditative in a particular way.

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