Cooke’s work combines painting conventions of the past with the illustrative styles of street art and children’s books to create obsessively detailed fictional scenes. His paintings move backwards and forwards between extremes, from details to dissolution painted with scientific accuracy.
What is interesting for me in his painting on the left is a sense of mourning for the lost form of manhood. A neglected part of the city that belongs to the teenagers, drug addicts and homeless people and as such is a no go area, beyond the reach of the authorities.
In next of his painting we can detect the influence of the Jungian concept of archetypes; he depicts the vagrant, the isolated characters that symbolise the fundamental aloneness of every human being. His characters allow Cooke to look critically at the existential angst of artists and philosophers, he paints his protagonists enthusiastically experiencing life rather than abstractedly examining it. The bushy beards of Cooke’s heroes are caught in the ecstasy of a joyous moment, unaware that beyond it there is nothingness, a death. Cooke’s images, while focussing on subject matter that could produce dark, distressing and disturbing images, are somehow lyrical in the way they are painted. His allegorical paintings work on different levels but it is their strange beauty that helps the viewer to accept the story Cooke hopes to translate softening the hardness of his message.
- Interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/collective/bb/nigelcooke_16x9_bb.ram
- More Cooke’s paintings at: http://www.andrearosengallery.com/artists/nigel-cooke/#