Meditations on physicality and a deep questioning of self are key tropes in Baptism, a series of new paintings by the Australian artist Will Cooke. A ritualistic process with a goal to enlightenment, the title acts as a fulcrum for a plethora of readings as the artist examines process, colour and surface. Each work presents another facet of the artist’s obsession with the canons of industrial design, architecture and modern art history. In contrast with the latent formality of the works, fragmented, diaristic titles expose the artist’s personal attachment to the series in an evolving arc of emotional catharsis.
Embedded within Cooke’s works, a metaphysical narrative of observation emerges to question the viewer’s relationship with each piece and its surroundings. Referencing the classical trope of the oculus and the mid-century portholes of French designer Jean Prouvé, a series of symmetrically positioned perfect circles punctuate each panel, their immaterial presence the result of the meticulous preservation of the aluminium sheet beneath layers of airbrushed paint.
Neither windows nor mirrors, the absent voids the circles create are metaphors for unspoken truths brought to light – tunnels that pierce the façade to expose the raw base material. Surrounding them, skins of colour crescendo from black on white to a veritable burst of Memphis pastels: gradient colour fields that perform precise geometric expressions in a shadow play that draws the eye in shifting horizontal planes across each work. The result is an optimistic ode to looking, and an exercise in purification through mediums of light and space.
Text by Dan Thawley