Nigel Cooke (b. 1973, Manchester, United Kingdom) is known for his evocative paintings which thematically explore intersections of personal memory, art history, and the constructed and natural worlds. Executed with a broad array of techniques and applications of paint, these atmospheric and often epic compositions weave figures and environments together, reflecting a complex blend of memory, chance, and intuition. The figures that appear in them are not portraits of individuals but hybrids of many—combinations of found photographs, observation, and invention.
While constructed in spatial layers corresponding to features of landscape—including areas of sky, architecture, geology and plant and animal life—the paintings balance that figuration with abstract techniques and sensibilities that distort the language and the surface of the image. Cooke uses ambiguity and fragmentation as strategies in his work, collapsing the distinction between genres such as abstraction, figuration, landscape, and still life.
New York—Pace is pleased to announce Nigel Cooke’s debut exhibition with the gallery and his first solo show in New York since 2012. Black Mimosa, an exhibition of new paintings, will be on view at 510 West 25th Street from September 18 through October 24, 2015. An opening reception for the artist will be held on Thursday, September 17 from, 6 to 8 p.m.
To accompany the exhibition, Pace will publish a catalogue with an essay by critic Martin Herbert.
Writing about his work in a 2008 review in The Evening Standard, critic Ben Lewis said, "Nigel Cooke has firmly established himself as the leading British painter of his (post-Doig) generation.”
Cooke’s newest body of work was created over the course of two years and demonstrates an evolution of techniques as well as a more nuanced relationship to abstraction. Cooke constructs hallucinatory space in his paintings, most of which are occupied by a solitary figure. His landscapes initially seem grounded in our world but upon closer investigation reveal themselves to be fantastical, as if imagined by the protagonists that inhabit them. For instance, the eponymous cascade in the painting Frozen Waterfall, 2015, coheres into the apparition of a skull that looms menacingly over a masked skier. All of Cooke’s subjects stem from real life—his autobiography, live models or photographic and literary sources—but metamorphose away from these everyday referents as they become realized in paint and enmeshed in the landscape of the work.
Cooke’s impasto surfaces are punctuated with masked, recessed areas that are then weathered and eroded with subsequent washes of paint. Radiating lines drawn in oil stick across the canvas both infuse the work with a sense of dynamism and energy and incise layers into the thick oil paint. Cooke continues in this vein until the images materialize; he likens his method of painting to processes of thinking: reflecting, imagining, intuiting.
Although the works rely on figuration, they operate within the realm of abstract painting. As in his earlier Storm paintings where scraping gestures that erased figurative components became central to the composition, Cooke again uses abstract elements as building blocks for his new work. These abstract qualities generate a form of psychological impressionism, reanimating a more than century-old tradition of landscape painting that insists on temporal and subjective experiences above representational content. The subject of these paintings is never limited to the field of what is represented. The works are what Cooke calls “portraits of painting,” conveying affect through the how of painting rather than the what.
Nigel Cooke (b. 1973, Manchester) holds an MA from the Royal College of Art, London (1997), and a PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London (2004). Solo exhibitions of Cooke’s work have been presented at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2013); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2007); South London Gallery (2006); Cleveland Museum of Art (2004); and the Tate Britain, London (2004).
His work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Tate Gallery, London.
Cooke lives and works in Kent, United Kingdom.
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2015. Pace Gallery. Paperback