Press Release

29 September 2014

The Sidney Cooper Gallery has this week opened its doors for its latest exhibition, John Copnall: Paintings.

The display, which will hang between Friday, 26 September and Saturday, 1 November, is a selection of work by the acclaimed painter, John Copnall (1928-2007), who taught at the Canterbury School of Art and the Central School of Art and Design.

John Copnall
John Copnall

This exhibition brings together a selection of paintings produced by Copnall, following his return from Spain. They showcase early stripe paintings from the 1970’s, described by the artist as long pure gestures, through to the ‘star’ paintings of the 1980’s, and ‘Radiance’ series in the 1990’s.

During this period of exploration into colour and abstraction, Copnall had written: “Gesture has always been in my work from big brush marks I made a as student when influenced by Rembrandt, by post-impressionism and then the young French realists. As a matière painter in the 60’s, the gestures made were in scraping large areas of cement and plaster into organic shapes. The gesture becomes the painting.

Copnall continued: “Colour is the prime element in my painting. Painting is colour. Over the years, grey, blacks and whites occasionally took the place of reds, greens and blues. Now I am working in full saturated colour and I find the pentangle a great structure for containing dynamic colour. It gives the optical semblance of deep space; space similar to that in sculpture. The scale is human, man-size.

Hazel Stone, Curator at the Sidney Cooper Gallery, said: “John was an immensely talented artist who won a series of awards from the Arts Council, British Council and the EA Abbey Scholarship in recognition for his work.

“His transition to using acrylic on an unprimed cotton canvas showcased his skill as a colourist and his pure passion for colour. The gallery is delighted to be hosting a selection of works from this period alongside notes, written by John, on the development of these works and his approach to gesture. The exhibition feels timely and the works seem to be as relevant and vibrant today as they were when they were first painted.

"Two short films have also been commissioned especially for the exhibition, to accompany the show and give real insight into the artist’s story.”

Copnall has exhibited widely both in Europe and the British Isles, having participated in prestigious shows such as British Painting ’74 at the Hayward Gallery, Art Spectrum, John Moores, as well as having solo shows at the ICA, London, the Del la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Ikon, Birmingham, Richard de Marco, Edinburgh and the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum.

As a part of this radical painting display, Charles Williams, Lecturer in Applied Art at Canterbury Christ Church University, will lead a three day workshop exploring the principles of three important influences that shaped British Abstract Formalism: Joseph Albers’ work on colour at the Black Mountain College in the USA, Basic Design, and the Bauhaus.

The workshops will take place on three consecutive Saturdays, 18 October, 25 October and 1 November, and will be held in the Painting Studios behind the Sidney Cooper Gallery. The sessions will be challenging for all. Booking is essential and places are £160 for adults and £130 for concessions.

To watch a video about the John Copnall: Paintings Exhibtion, click here, or to book a place on Radical Paintings workshop, please email:

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 20,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 93% of our most recent UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2013 UCAS).
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 22:16:00