Land, sea and sky: those three great elements of our dwelling and of our visual experience, are evoked in Daisy Cook’s work; their interactions patiently witnessed, watched during their processes of transformation. It is good to spend time in the company of these works: they have a particular way of disclosing themselves while light changes, blooms and fades.
These paintings have grown as much from the stuff and fabric of paint, interacting with the material and texture of canvas, as from the remembered and imagined scenes that they suggest. Using a restrained palette of predominantly earth colours – raw umber, raw sienna, Payne’s grey, olive green – Daisy Cook explores the geological structures that underlie and form landscape. The paint is, in a small way, subject to pressures similar to those that occur over millennia – processes of erosion, compression and liquefaction. A work is often initiated by drizzling thin paint onto canvas that has been laid across the floor – a process in which chance as well as intention is at play. The marks so made form a material starting point: an original matter, waiting for the spark of life to ignite them. The palette of Daisy Cook’s early work was exuberantly, almost decoratively, colourful – pinks, blues and golds which made for works of great beauty. Her work has evolved (like the landscape it suggests) into something still beautiful but much starker, more geometric. A paring down to what is elemental. The geometric shapes represent an analysis of the seen world. At times they are reminiscent of Paul Nash’s paintings of the sea and beach at Dymchurch. The Danish painter, Per Kirkeby (who is also a geologist) is an important reference in Cook’s work. With Nash and Kirkeby there is a sense of what some might call the ‘mystical’ which is never alluded to in a heavy-handed or literal way: it is simply the life that the light discloses and which in turn initiates change.
Elizabeth Cook, poet
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