Thursday, 11 February 2010


MONICA COOK paints beautiful and disturbing portraits of women. Her figures are brilliantly painted, with breathtaking skill; Cook excels in rendering the subtleties of the flesh and details of light, tone and surface. Painted with an eerie intensity, Cook's figures compel the viewer to study them, often surreptitiously, as there is a strong sense of invading an extremely private moment. We look, albeit sideways, with fascination at the beauty, humanity and complexity of these portraits.

In Seeded and Soiled, Cook’s nude women continue to be engaged with gorgeously rendered erotic food in scenes that elicit a range of emotion in the viewer from mesmerized hilarity to horror. The atmosphere in the current paintings however, has been altered from that of the prior works. The sense of pensive isolation of the previous solitary nude figures has been fractured and energized, as multiple figures, both clothed and nude are now interacting with each other, as well as with the food that they are consuming and playing with in sensual abandon. What is more, it is not solely the fact that some of the figures are clothed while others are nude that expand the implications of these utterly curious images, but the oddity of the garment itself - a captivatingly incongruous uniform vaguely reminiscent of an earlier era – and the fact that every clothed figure is wearing exactly the same uniform. To add to the surreality of the situation, all the women appear to be the same person, nude or clothed, tortured or enraptured, emaciated or corpulent. The artist has dubbed these nude and clothed women the “Nakeds” and the “Officials”. Whether locked in battle as in the exquisitely precise drawings, or enjoying a sort of truce while sporting side by side in slippery, shining food as in the paintings, the Officials and the Nakeds play out the eternal paradox of existence as they, in the artists’ words “wrestle with debauchery and virtue, control and liberation, logic and absurdity – the beauty and repulsion inherent in each of these extremes and the magnificent struggle in our search for balance”.

The Georgia-born artist graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 1996 and now lives and works in New York, where she recently concluded a residency at the School of Visual Arts. Since 1992, Cook has exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the US and Canada, as well as in the Netherlands, Israel, France and Switzerland. Publications include Art in America, Le Figaro, Elle Magazine, and New American Paintings. She has also exhibited at art fairs with Marcia Wood Gallery in London, Miami and New York. (marcia wood gallery)



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