Feb 272020
 

Currently at Pace Gallery in New York are Nigel Cooke’s ten large-scale paintings. The paintings have an exuberant intensity to them. Close up the shades of varying color, layers of paint, and the textures created by the brush strokes, show the detail that went in to creating the overall effect of the work.

From the press release-

Completed over the past year, these ten new large-scale paintings mark a significant shift in the artist’s direction toward a more performative, energetic, and abstract approach to figuration. This shift was propelled by a recent residency in the city, where Cooke remarked that “the entire philosophy of what it is I am doing has been adjusted.” These works, which reference actions, places, and people, exist as matrices in which the artist’s free and open process meets wider themes of metaphor, spirit, nature, representation, and the living material quality of paint. In this way, these new works draw on the legacies of American artists such as Willem de Kooning and Clyfford Still as well as Abstract Expressionism, British Figuration, Spanish painting, and Chinese silk painting.

…These dynamic compositions become transitional grids that unfix and multiply the idea of what a figure is, reflecting a complex interplay of vigor, chance, and intuition. They begin with a single color drawn in a loose structure that drives the painting process forward. Building up the canvas in lines and washes, the paintings move away from a defined image, resulting in a myriad of possibilities from the mud and grit of real landscapes to atmospheric emanations or presences. As such, they do not depend on a fixed viewpoint but drift between states, contradicting themselves over time and allowing for the possibility of transformation.

Furthering Cooke’s radical shift in his practice, the paintings were executed on raw canvas—a first for the artist. The natural linen endows the paintings with a unique brownish ground and a textured weave that is seen throughout the works. This material quality also impacts Cooke’s mark-making as washes develop into thickets of dark staining and lines that taper off and sometimes produce kasure or “flying white,” an ancient Chinese silk painting technique known for its ribbon-like strokes that sputter and appear to leap off of the surface of the canvas.

This exhibition closes 2/29/20.