John Copnall was born in Slinfold, Sussex, son of sculptor Bainbridge Copnall, in February 1928. He studied at the Architectural Association in the early 1940s before serving his National Service in the Army.
On returning from the Army, Copnall briefly studied painting with his father at the Sir John Cass College, before enrolling at the Royal Academy in 1949 under the tutorage of Henry Rushbury.
Copnall's early work was very much in the figurative style of the day, as can be seen from the self-portrait, but towards the end of his time at the RA he began to become aware of the exciting developments happening within the American art scene.This coincided with a trip Copnall made to Spain with fellow student Bert Flugelman, when they hitchhiked down to Barcelona.The plan was to stay for a month, but the Spanish landscape had such a profound effect on Copnall that he ended up staying until 1968!
Red & Yellow 1961
Mountain & Palms
Flugelman returned to London and Copnall found a small farmhouse just outside what was then the tiny village of Benalmadena, Andalucia, where, inspired by a combination of his interest in Abstract Expressionism and the dramatic Spanish landscape, he began a series of powerful abstract paintings.
He based many works of this period on rock formations and the heavy impasto paint seems to almost take on the very essence of the stone itself glowing in the Spanish sun.
The subtle multi-layering and strength of application give these paintings an organic form all of their own and even though most of the pieces are now more than 40 years old they are as fresh and vital as the day they were painted.Mark Barrow 2005