American painter John Copeland (born 1976) has continuously focussed on the relationship between abstraction and figuration throughout his career. Often working in thick impasto, his canvases are imbued with a dynamic, expressionist tone which references the human drive concealed within our everyday experiences.
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Born in California in 1976, John Copeland went on to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts, where he gained a BFA in 1998. Upon graduating, Copeland moved to New York, where he continues to live and work.
His earliest work incorporated objects into his paintings and drawings, creating installation style works, before moving away from this approach to focus on single canvases and works on paper. The relationship between abstraction and figuration has been a continuous focus throughout Copeland’s career. Copeland has stated, ‘I’m more interested in using the language of painting and working with the edge of abstraction, working with the push and pull of paint, image, readability and texture.’
Copeland’s nude figures are often drawn from images found in porn and erotic magazines from the 1960s, which he distorts in thick layers of paint. The eroticism of the figures is heightened through the energy of Copeland’s raw and bold brushstrokes. In building a thick impasto upon his canvas he imbues his expressionistic paintings with a darker tone that references libidinous human drives which are concealed within everyday experiences.
Often working with established art historical tropes, such as the nude and the table and the skull, Copeland aims to explore the complexities of image-making and representation. Process driven, Copeland creates his works around a given idea in order to build compositions that explore the balance between everyday realities and the violence and drives that underlay human existence. His work has moved increasingly towards abstraction, in which his figures blend more and more into the background as he works with numerous colours which combine together, never allowing a single colour to dominate the canvas.
Copeland’s work has been exhibited internationally in Copenhagen, Bologna, Zurich, New York, Leipzig and most recently at the Newport Street Gallery in London. He lives and works in New York.