Mark Cooper

Unbounded Vessel XI, 2021
Handbuilt, glazed ceramics
27 x 23 in

ABout the Artist

My creative practice is a combination of my individual creations, collaborations and public projects, teaching and lecturing. It includes singular objects, collage, assemblage, installation, and site responsive projects.  My work is often intended to be a positive vehicle and metaphor for change. Past collaborative projects, for example, were designed as including a transparent process in which participants had ownership and an experience of success in putting forward positive public statements. The ceramic components of my installations, as another example, conceptually reference a long and diverse history of ceramic creation at the heart of which is sharing meals. My creative efforts have always been idea based and about adding to the conversation around a range of topics while at the same time producing beautiful and engaging objects and installations. This has meant referencing current and past cultures and issues around assigned value and imposed hierarchy. I include multiple subtext in my art ranging from a conceptual approach to ceramics to an emphasis on mixed media collaboration while at all times creating components or individual objects that are uplifting for the viewers. 


In some projects and through my research I have been able to bring together seemingly unrelated—even contradictory—elements, which interact to create a more meaningful and immersive whole. My way of working through assemblage and site responsive installations engages viewers differently than linear narrative. My installations invite viewers to discover unexpected connections, bringing new meaning to each component part. The confluence of material expectations is meant to invite viewers to interact with the individual objects in playful and imaginative ways. These projects explore visual language and visual culture on several levels, addressing collections, collecting, value, and methods of presentation. 

My work draws on a range of subject matter from construction sites, to cell biology, to street life, to art historical references. There is dialogue between the materials, from sturdy wooden structures to ethereal rice paper and organic ceramics, as well as collage, photographs, and paintings. In asking viewers to draw connections between forms and influences, my hope is that each installation serves as a sort of microcosm, encouraging nuance and communication in a world that is often polarized. The installation of these objects together promotes the concept that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. When viewers are presented with the opportunity to make connections between objects, it becomes a metaphor for making connections between cultures. 


I am interested in systems thinking, and the idea of seeing any given issue as part of a greater interlocking network of challenges. Placing diverse creations in relation to one another in an installation takes away the importance of individual objects for the gain of the ongoing conversation between them. It suggests that the genius idea, in science, mathematics, art, and all disciplines is built on the effort of everything that comes before. To me, these installations provide concrete steps towards problems that seem too vast to take on all at once. 

The inclusion of ceramic components in my installations responds to the humanity implicit in a ceramic vessel used for anything from eating to decoration and the enormous range of value placed on ceramics in different part of the world at different moments in history. Whether presented as individual objects or in installation, each rice paper drawing, ceramic object, sculptural form, photograph, and painting is created to be a remarkable stand-alone object. 


Another aspect of my object making addresses notions of the monument and statue throughout history while remaining engaged in the contemporary discourse. In my recent permanent sculptural installation of three large white and black marble faces for the DaNang Museum of Fine Art, “Unbounded”, my intention was to use marble as a material with a long history used in sculptures and monuments in a totally unexpected and welcoming way rather than commemorate a political leader or victorious battle. 

My creative practice opens conversations with the viewer and through collaboration with other individuals, including artists, installers, shippers, lighting specialists, curators, and sometimes non- professional members of a community as well.  The viewers play an important role in bringing their history and response to the conversations generated by the art I produce. My hope and intention is to provide viewers with visual and conceptual catalyst that provides opportunities to think about issues in new ways.   



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