When Thomas Hardy wrote: ‘Nature is played out as a Beauty, but not as a Mystery’, he was voicing an authentic artistic response to the general longing to know more about the natural world which the study and pursuit of science had engendered. He went on: ‘I don’t want to see the original realities – as optical effects, that is. I want to see the deeper reality underlying the scenic, the expression of what are sometimes called abstract imaginings.’ Daisy Cook makes paintings which deal with these abstract imaginings. She has also never been afraid to engage with beauty, though she is not drawn to its more obvious manifestations. Her latest paintings bear ample witness to this. The meeting point of land, sea and sky has long been a focus for her art. Cook makes paintings which take landscape as their subject without being explicitly topographical or descriptive. Through a suggestion of silvery clouds and mudflat she evokes a littoral: not a specific view or portrait of a place, but a larger statement about this type of country as a habitat for the spirit, a place where the imagination may soar. Photographs are used as reference, but the key energy of these paintings resides in Cook’s singular ability to recognize and identify the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her particular quality of recognition breathes through these images, animating them. Intuition and chance play their part, but they would be inert without the guiding principle of the artist’s vision.
The pattern and rhythm of Cook’s life has changed radically with the birth of her daughter, and instead of spending most days in her studio she is now limited to two or three much more intense sessions per week. This has focused and polarized her studio activity, giving it a different edge and set of priorities. At the same time the experience of motherhood (‘the most tender thing I’ve ever felt’) has undoubtedly fed into her work.