Ecke Pfümpe
The paintings of Andrew Cooks are slow. They are slow to make and slow to look at. Passing time is part of their point.
imagining the Garden is the collective title of Andrew Cooks' ongoing body of work since 1999 and in it he examines the space and idea of the garden. Gardens are a cross cultural idea and they serve utilitarian and aesthetic purposes. By definition a garden is nature annexed to an idea; it is nature outlined, fenced off. This simple act of demarcation makes the garden simultaneously a part of nature, yet separated from it.
The pleasure garden is at once a real & an imagined place. A theatre of culture, it is both nature & artifice.
Gardens are investigations of depth & they invite motion. We are urged to move through the garden - big or small - physically and visually. As we do this, a garden is in an ongoing state of becoming as our experience of it unfolds over time. We pass this way and that, drawn to focal points, to scents and textures, to views and effects. This is as true for highly ordered gardens like Louis XIV's Gardens at Versailles as it is for the seeming naturalism of the English park, like New York City's Central Park.
The experience of being in a garden is sensory - gardens, all gardens, play to our senses; sight, smell, touch, sound and even taste.
The garden surrounds us as an experience before all else.
I react. Then, I think.
Cooks' most recent group of paintings, and in the Ponds broken off from the sky, take as their title a line from the poem Fortschritt by Rainer Maria Rilke. He says that he chose this line because of its evocation of space.
"It conjures a line of sight below the horizon, into a pond where we see, all at once, the surface of the pond, reflections on it and into the pond. It is a great idea of space - a surface, our space reflected in that surface and an interior watery space. It's also like our suspension of disbelief when we look at paintings and imagine we see space within them. We know we are looking at a flat surface but if the sleight of hand is good enough we see through the surface, too, into the space created by the painter."
Taking a dynamic, Baroque approach to pictorial space Cooks explores the gardens' invitation to movement by layering and weaving complex fictional spaces. He uses designs from formal French and Persian gardens, together with pattern and decoration to create and deny this space.
Cooks employs a wide variety of marking systems to enhance these illusions of space, trompe l'oeil, and flatness. Using distortions of pattern he hints, too, at our space as images push out toward us. Figures at leisure are added to heighten our being in this ‘imagined garden’ and finally, text from poetry, prose and place names asks us to read, prompting our desire for further meaning.
To enhance the invitation to movement he uses discrepancies of scale. This necessitates that as we view often mural-size works, we are asked to read them as miniatures, too. As I look, I am almost constantly in motion; I move to and from the surfaces grazing, and looking at how the various details are part of the whole.
Cooks provokes my memory - of what I have just seen and all that I might have seen before.
As I look, and look again, time takes hold.