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Small Journeys

"...these new paintings are cool in colour, but optimistic. Their aquatic limpidities recall our mild and essentially marine climate after the harsher colours of foreign travel - the yellows of her Cuban paintings, and the predominantly red palette of the Australian work. Meanwhile, the structure of the paintings themselves has taken on a new vertical impetus. These paintings yearn skyward; are, as Cook herself tentatively suggests, 'more exalted'. This new brush-led work moves in and out of focus, like a lens adjusting to depth of field, as if finding the optimum distance to view from. Cook still uses blank newsprint to apply paint to the canvas, and sometimes muslin, but her touch has become more personal in the act of drawing with paint. Look, for instance, at the brushwork in the sky of the rather arctic Quicksilver, one of the busiest images. Dots are coming through from the left, blocks of white occupy the foreground and sky, as if tracking the movement of the elements, making the wind and the light visible. What do we see and what do we intuit or imagine? These paintings, besides being beautiful objects, question in a very subtle and unassuming way the nature of looking.

Cook the seasoned traveller has not ventured outside England for the inspiration for these new works. They are fed by smaller journeys, many of them to the flatlands of East Anglia, where water dominates the landscape and Constable's 'dome of the sky' rears vast over all. Walking in Suffolk and Norfolk, with the horizon like a distant echo, the experience can be humbling. Man in relation to the earth: the scale of things: our relative insignificance. But we have our place. Look at the horizontal bands of Woodland, for instance. The earth is asserted with an emphatic horizontality in these paintings and the palette is appropriately grounded here in earth colours, but the greater part of each painting is suffused with light. The skies open with possibility while the waters balance and reflect. In Reflection the subtleties of the sky take over, while in Marsh all is activity of textures and daring use of white; it's a vaporous, strong presence. Or look at the trickling and eddying of paint in Trace, with its strange shape in the sky, like the halation of a speed photo. All here is surface and what the paint does in collaboration with the artist: seemingly random marks and traces and patterns.
These paintings are still very much to do with the activity of paint on canvas - the way it can pool or smear when applied liquidly or printed off with paper. And textures remain of considerable importance. But the process has been refined, pared down. Cook is now saying more with less. The fruitful dialogue between abstraction and representation continues throughout the series.

Cook's paintings are very susceptible to changing light conditions. They can take a lot of strong natural light, and ideally should be watched throughout the day, and observed in different intensities of direct or diffused light. We, the spectators, are privileged to be party to the meditative enquiry of the studio. The results are inspiring, for the horizon line dominates this body of work, and Cook has spoken of the horizon as 'my gauge of hope and possibility'. She shares these hopes and aspirations with us, and makes us once more aware of the infinite possibilities of the world."
(taken from Andrew Lambirth London, May 2006)



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