Nigel Cooke (b. 1973) is a British artist known for his exceptionally radical work that pushes the boundaries of painting and the expectations historically associated with it. Through an intrepid process of addition, subtraction and obliteration, his paintings hold their own specific tension, with abstraction and representation fighting for primacy, each ultimately failing and succeeding in turns.
Acknowledging the velocity of painting, the vitality of the impact of the paint itself and the perverse psychology of the strokes that make it, Cooke's paintings deliriously push and pull us from layers of depth and detail to extreme surfaces of impasto. Despite the emphasis on the abstract, nevertheless, we are always returned to the inner workings of the characters that inhabit the picture - the lovers, holiday makers, sailors, sirens, clowns, chefs, half-wits and smoking flower people. There is a fascinatingly unique temporality and often seemingly blasé self-possession in each subject and object that survives the storm. As Cooke puts it, 'When does meaning get into the picture and convert the struggle into a second picture, outside of the mere paint, drawing the mind into a story, a setting, a drama? Why can't abstraction happen? And why, simultaneously, is it always already there?'
London: Phaidon Press LTD, 2016