Ferg Cooper, a Cream Scene Favorite, thought he was gonna get arrested for watching an Andy Warhol film. And more!
All artwork is Ferg Cooper
Interview by Dia VanGunten
You know Cream Scene loves ya, Ferg, so we gotta celebrate your wins. Tell us all about this show you’re in, the heart of London, no biggie.
Thanks! It was a group show as part of the Koppel Project – which is who I have my studio with. They have a gallery called Koppel X which is literally underneath the famous billboards in Piccadilly Circus.
Pretty amazing to see a piece of work go from the studio to the centre of London and have the eyes of thousands of people.
While you’re at it, tell us about that adorable photo of you at your show. That was a good hug!
You should paint that hug.
That photo is with my friend Dan, who modelled for one of the images in the piece. He just makes me sooooooo happpy, that is what you’re seeing!
I almost urged you to let yourself soak it up and then I saw the hug, You look really happy in the photo. How much of that was enjoying success in the moment? Are you able to do that?
Haha. That’s an interesting question because I hadn’t even thought about it as a “success.” I was just thinking of how many beers I could fit in at the PV…I’m literally thinking now what do I consider a success? Making a work/showing a work/selling a work? I suppose that’s the chronology, but actually I think the success part is just making the work in the first place.
Obviously I want people to see the work as well, but I make work because I want to make it. I’m making it for me, and the rest is just added extras.
I wanna talk to you about AI and Andy Warhol, the factory and pop art, but we can’t skip Katy’s favorite part…so please spoil us with details about inspiration and process…
Well, I never plan anything, so I never know what’s going to come out. I start with an image that I like, get that down and then work outwards from there, seeing what goes with what. A lot of my bigger pieces are based on a comic book style lay out, and in my head there are distinct aspects of each piece that are doing different things. There’s the comic book noir sections, the cartoon sections, and then the life drawing sections. I’m building towards using the different sections as their own distinct narratives. Haven’t nailed it yet, but that’s where it’s going. I use paint, drawing, ink and collage so it’s a case of making sure those elements play together nicely as well.
Who are your faves? Your inspirations?
John Waters, cheese puffs, BTS, Dirty Harry, Chucky, Paris Hilton, YouTube videos of people going to Disney, Bad Girls, Haribo, Spice Girls, Puccini, Teen Titans Go, Fast & The Furious, Oscar & The Wolf, fried chicken, sudocreme, creme eggs, and eggs.
In terms of artists, it’s quite rare that I like ‘an artist’ as I tend to like individual pieces, but I guess I’ll go Hockney, for a famous, and check out Luke Carter for someone emerging – honestly, I just look at everything he posts and am in love with it.
Do you play favorites among your works?
Absolutely. I always say I think about 1 in 5 are actually any good. If I knew what it was, I’d do it every time, but when you do it you KNOW it.
Was there a turning point in your artistic career where you felt something click and your personal style came into focus?
I’ve always drawn in a cartoony style – even when i was younger, I would make my own comic books (Duck Detective & The Nut) and the bold colouring has always been there. Then there are a few key moments I can think of where various bits of ‘my style’ came into play.
But it’s always evolving.
For example I always did life drawing alongside my main practice, and it was a studio friend of mine, Fiona, who said why don’t you put the life drawing into the paintings, and that was a huge lightbulb moment.
That was probably the most recent click.
What do think of AI? Are you worried?
Nah. AI might be able to create an image, but without a human thought behind it, it’s never going to be saying anything.
Also AI only makes work when people ask it to make work, and if that’s the kind of thing those people want they’re never going to like my work anyway.
As an artist – and a human – are you feeling the crunch of capitalism?
This could spiral into a diatribe so I’m not even going to start!
But I am very privileged to be able to afford to have a studio in London, so any of my complaints about what I “can’t afford” are moot.
I love the pop aspect of your work, and especially the queer pop art, but I really like that you’re owning that. Modernity is periodically maligned, and pop art with it, when Both things are sort of inherently queer.
I just kind of think fuck it, to be honest.
Queer people have to bend who they are to exist in a world built for straight people, so the world can deal with looking at some gay stuff in my art.
Snce I went balls out gay stuff in the art work, I’ve been surprised by how much people seem to LIKE it. It’s probably because it’s pre-programmed into any queer person that the world is going to hate you, but I’ve been spurred on lately by young, straight guys from outside the ‘art world’ and they came to my studio to see the work and they have become some of my biggest cheerleaders and that has been a massive game changer for me…
Maybe some of my preconceptions about who the work is for were wrong?
That said, I live in London (privilege, again) so maybe it won’t land the same in provincial towns, but I now have confidence to just put it all out there.
Maybe it’s just anti-Andy backlash or basic snobbery. What do you think of Warhol?
What he did was amazing, but I find it hard to see his work in any kind of interesting way because it’s so pervasive. He almost seems like a parody of himself…and it’s nothing to do with him, because that’s come after the fact, and the whole thing feeds into what he was saying anyway right?! So I dunno. I find his diaries quite inspiring, maybe that’s because you get to hear his thoughts at the time and not after history has skewed things.
Trash and Flesh are two amazing films. I found Flesh in an old video store when I was about 17 and I couldn’t believe there was so much male nudity. I honestly thought maybe the film was illegal and got scared I was going to get arrested.
Pop art abuts propaganda & advertising. When they collided in Warhol’s work, we saw the art that goes into soup cans or boxes of borax. Like Warhol, you play with that connection between pop culture and “commodity” – back page adverts and buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
What is your favorite packaging design that exists in real life?
I really love Reeces’ – that orange is so obnoxious…and KFC buckets are SO satisfying right? The shape, the block colour. I wish someone would use my peanut butter design for Nut Butt….honestly should have been a designer, I’m wasted as an artist 🙂
About Ferg Cooper
Ferg Cooper is a visual artist working primarily in paint and collage. His work is rooted in queer theory and deals with themes of commercialism in relation to the self. Specifically, ways we use social media to communicate and how we cope with a constant bombardment of visual information. Many of his works use imagery inspired by strangers’ posts, or models discovered online. Ferg graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2017 with an MA in Fine Art. He has participated in residencies including the Florence Trust and ‘Plop’. He joined the inaugural panel of Artcry, a fund giving fast answers on funding for political work, and has mentored for NPA Labs. Ferg has exhibited with several galleries across London and the UK, including Tate Exchange, Menier Gallery, San Mei, Mall Galleries, and Islington Arts Factory. He has worked with several collectives including Bad Art Presents and Raw Art Forum,and made commissions for The Unicorn Theatre and Artcry, as well as designs for club nights and record sleeves. He is currently based at Koppel Project Bank.