Nigel Cooke: Atlas with Butterfly

Marking Nigel Cooke’s first exhibition with Pace London in six years, this new body of work signals a significant moment for Cooke as he brings his expansive abstract paintings to London for the first time since his practice shifted in 2019. The exhibition’s title refers both to a world map – synonymous with travel and adventure – and the Ancient Greek Titan, condemned to carry the heavens on his shoulders for eternity, at once colossal and immaterial. Cooke reimagines the icon with a delicate, diaphanous creature, reflecting his own interrogation of the immense and microscopic systems that govern the natural world.

Inspired by Cooke’s travels and encounters with wildlife at home and overseas, this new body of work layers dynamic forms with a mutating array of animal and landscape associations. At the centre of Cooke’s practice is a fascination with the way information travels from the brain, through the body and nervous system, onto the canvas and back again. His work is a philosophical examination of the ways in which consciousness and subconsciousness interact to create a painting. Where previously his paintings would layer complex lines, forms, and shapes to create work that hovered between abstraction and figuration, recent years have seen a loosening of Cooke’s dynamic visual lexicon as the artist refines his exploration of the questions that have propelled his practice for more than 25 years. The intricate, sinuous web of lines built up over raw canvas recalls a wide array of imagery, from neural networks to crashing sea against rough sand. The large-scale paintings hold a bodily quality that relates both to Cooke’s own physical range of motion and the viewers’, as they are enveloped into the abstract field.

The suite of paintings and works on paper presented in Atlas with Butterfly began with a chance spotting of a pelican landing on the smooth surface of the Atlantic Ocean from a Miami beach. Struck by the primordial bird, the textured ripple of the water, and the jewel-toned colours glittering in the golden light, Cooke began crafting this latest body of work, explaining that the scene “moved me in ways I couldn’t figure out. … The impact of the bird had the force of truth – a brute fact, an echo of evolution, a ring of the eternal. The colours stayed pulsing in For immediate release my mind.” Certainly, Cooke’s colours throb with intensity: Tigral is a whirl of searing oranges and reds brought to life by a lightning storm of yellow.

These new works showcase Cooke’s heightened and focused engagement with colour, which lends the compositions a new emotive charge.

Duration 23 November 2022 - 07 January 2023
Times Tuesday–Saturday 10–6
Cost Free
Venue Pace London
Address 5 Hanover Square, London, W1S 1HD
Contact 4402032067600 / /

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