“Stretching and reaching from the corner of a room, a dizzying array of images, words and objects grasp the eye and the mind …”
From a corner at the opposite end of the gallery the voice of the prematurely deceased artist rhythmically fills the space and evokes the ‘painter’s diagonal method’ – this is the result of a curatorial composition that involves a video playing of the artist, Anna Oppermann, telling us about her work. The documentary film dates from 1977. In it, Oppermann says she started creating ensembles because she was unable to paint a perfect painting that could be framed, shown in a gallery and be widely admired. Because of this critical self-reflection and her rich thought processes, she moved from painting to ensembles.
There is a lot to look at in this ensemble, Cotoneaster horizontalis, which is a recreation of the ensemble shown at the Kunstverein Düsseldorf in 1984.
The Cooper gallery offers the space and the time to look at it all – space and time were integral to Oppermann’s practice.
“Even if produced over a number of years, every ensemble does indeed have a surprisingly simple beginning in time and space.” Oppermann’s ensembles were all motivated by a specific ’starting object’ such as an everyday object, a plant or a phrase. As an artist, Oppermann dedicated time and energy to explaining herself; she made art from the depths of her thought processes, from recordings and sometimes by multiplying and reworking every stage of that process. As an academic, Oppermann struggled with the rigid system at Wuppertal University where she taught for eight years. Perhaps the name and the definition of the cotoneaster plant(see below) resemble the profile of a student of that time and we could argue that it also describes contemporary students, too.
“Cotoneasters come in all shapes and sizes, raging from prostrate ground covers [German: bodembedecker] to 20 ft. trees. All cotoneaster are hardy and tolerant of poor conditions – they will grow almost anywhere and need no attention apart from cutting back if they start to get out of hand.”
This exhibition at the Cooper gallery, which is just on the other side of the wall from the general foundation year studios at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, is visually rich and sure to be a potent source of inspiration for students who come to see it. Hopefully their future work will echo Oppermann’s reflective play and they will be provoked to ask themselves what it means to ‘be an artist’.
 From Against the Finite by Sophia Yadong Hao, p.1 Anna Oppermann Cotoneaster horizontalis publication, Cooper gallery, Dundee, 2014
 The Diagonal Method is a “method” of composition that was discovered accidentally in May 2006 by the Dutch photographer and teacher of photography Edwin Westhoff while doing research on a theory of composition called the “Rule of Thirds”, as it is known in photography. The Diagonal Method is different from existing theories of composition (e.g. the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Section) because it is not concerned with making “good” compositions but with finding details which are important to the artist in a psychological or emotional way. In this way the Diagonal Method is completely subjective. It has nothing to do with positioning lines or shapes in a certain location within a frame with the intention of getting a “better” composition. Hence we can use the Diagonal Method to find out what the artist’s interests were. The positioning of details is done in an unconscious manner. That’s why the Diagonal Method is so exact. https://sites.google.com/site/diagonalmethod/home
 From Hessayon, D. G., The Tree & Shrub Expert, pbi Publications, Herts, 1983