Lemon Street Gallery,
13 Lemon Street,
Truro, Cornwall, TR1 2LS
+44 (0) 1872 275757 info@lemonstreetgallery.co.uk


Truth & Illusion

15 Oct - 5 Nov 2011






The title of Barrie Cook’s new exhibition, ‘Truth and Illusion’, stems from concepts and principles that have been inherent in his work since his early years as an artist. Using the unique and adaptable method of spray-painting, Cook’s work has become much more about process and creation than of the finished piece itself; and this is reflected in the viewer’s approach and response to work that reveals itself gradually and tentatively, becoming richer through closer examination.

Questions about visual truth and ambiguity are brought to mind, as we each form our own internal comprehension of Cook’s multi-hued canvases, which as a rule go against the grain of traditional representation. The use of spray-paint, having become an iconic and recognisable technique of Cook’s, was originally adopted to navigate having just two days a week to dedicate to his work, and a need to process and form his ideas quickly. In its scale, unexpected colour combinations and dramatic yet technically intricate forms, it is easy to view Cook’s work as a physical manifestation of the creative mental process, an idea that is lent credibility through layered and rapid execution.

Trained academically, the development towards spray-painting was, in Cook’s words, to ‘break the habit of brushstroke mentality’, and to escape the potential clichés that arise from a ‘monotony’ of technique. Cook’s work seems self-reflective, playful, apparently enjoying its ability to surprise its viewers – and indeed, its creator – through its versatility of form and colour. Our interpretation of the work must re-set itself with each piece we observe, a deliberate method of Cook’s to displace any sense of comfort and security, and to invite a deeper, prolonged response not simply to the work itself, but to our own interpretation of it.

This show features work that spans across Cook’s long career, from the darker industrial shapes and hues of his time in Birmingham, to the vivid canvases inspired by the spectacular bright light of southern Cornwall. Having exhibited in a great number of shows throughout Britain, including most recently at theWhitechapel Gallery in London, Cook’s work has been extensively discussed and portrayed through various themes and series.While some have critiqued him in comparison to Op Art and its principles, Cook insists that his work is less emotional than that, citing the influence of the Russian Constructivists, whose modern, structured and impassive style continues to excite and inspire him. ‘Truth and Illusion’ offers a new perspective on Cook’s methods and aims, one that concentrates on the themes invoked by his technique, the ambiguity of his titles, and what this will mean for the viewer and our understanding of Cook’s work as a whole. It is, in his own words, a style that ‘rather defies verbal analysis’, but encourages us to go deeper than the usual image-association process, and to contemplate it honestly.

RosieWillmot, September 2011

Barry Cook
Barrie Cook, May 2011

Since moving to Cornwall, with its clear light and sparkling seas, Cook's palette has broadened, shifting from the earlier sombre blues and greys to a greater emphasis on primary and secondary colours. These paintings, with their vibrant turquoises, lush oranges and citrus yellows, point to an aesthetically recharged artist with a more exuberant edge to his work. It would be wrong to imagine that they have lost their profundity of purpose: the message may have altered somewhat, but the motivation remains as committed as ever.

Roger Bristow


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