The link between James Hugonin’s multi-coloured abstract painting and this small black and white photograph by Thomas Joshua Cooper is not immediately obvious, at least visually, but both works come...
The link between James Hugonin’s multi-coloured abstract painting and this small black and white photograph by Thomas Joshua Cooper is not immediately obvious, at least visually, but both works come from artists who share a spirit of unusually single-minded determination. In James’s case, the holding of knowledge and intention across the year or more that it takes to make a painting, with Thomas, the resolve to seek out his subject at, quite literally, the ends of the earth.
The two artists have known each other for years, having both shown with the Graeme Murray Gallery in Edinburgh in the 1980s but, despite sharing a similarly uncompromising attitude, the means by which they make their work could hardly be more different: James staying resolutely close to home, working intensely in the studio, and Thomas travelling the globe in search of his images.
Thomas is a self-described ‘expeditionary artist’ working exclusively with an adapted wooden box camera from 1898 and crossing the world in search of the pictures he will make, their location always chosen on the basis of a rigorous conceptual premise, rather than the sense of how the place might actually look. When he gets there (and bear in mind that in the case of some of his more extreme examples the journey to make a single picture may take many weeks) he makes a single exposure, one image which may or may not succeed. There’s a perversity to this which suggests that despite using the tools of photography he’s not really a photographer in any conventional sense, rather he’s a kind of artist-explorer driven by faith and (wilful) determination.
Alongside major expeditionary series, such as the 30 year project ‘the World’s Edge - the Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity’ recently exhibited to huge acclaim at LACMA, Thomas has also always made works closer to home in his adopted Scotland. The image shown here , selected by Thomas for ;the Unseen Masterpiece’, is one of these, part of an on-going exploration into the peregrinations of early Scottish and Irish saints. Like all of his work it is exquisitely printed and toned by his own hand in his Glasgow darkroom – the point at which the picture is truly ‘made’ - black and white giving way to shades of dark and light.