Narinda Cook Essay

Published Wednesday, January 2, 2002

My main concerns are colours and shapes and arrangements. The materials I choose to use are easily accessible materials such as plasticine, playdough and toffee.

Image: Study for Blue and Pink and Yellow, plasticene; 1999

Narinda Cook - Study for Blue and Pink and Yellow

Abstraction within the development of forms and the selection of unorthodox materials are what distinguish Cook's oeuvre. Similar to Duchamp's philosophy of the use of the ready-made, Cook extends this convention within her own art making. Cook's artworks are an exploration of the ideas about art and the relationship to the use of materials. Her use of materials such as toffee, plasticine and velvet, court surprise and make the viewer question their own presumptions and biases about works of art. The use of material also suggests a feminine quality, a return back to childhood or an attempt to evoke a sense of innocence and child like enthusiasm.

The unusual use of material and development of subject matter suggests to the viewer a sense of irony and humour which critically revalues the modernist canon of art for art's sake, in this case it is art for fun's sake which is a convention employed by many postmodern artists and architects. The materials used by Cook and her visual treatment suggests that her work evolves around the sense of being and amusement. In such works abstraction takes a different trajectory to that of the Abstract Expressionists who felt that their work should reflect the gravity of their world, as Cook constructs a lightness and facetiousness that is often missed in artmaking.

By Craig Malyon

Questions on the Artist

  • Cook's selection and use of material suggest particular aspects and approaches employed by the artist. Discuss the use of material in terms of her art practice.
  • Compare and contrast Cook's use of materials with that of the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp. Examine how both reflect different attitudes and beliefs of their world.
  • Would you consider Cook's work to be dealing with issues of gender identity and feminism?
  • How would a curator write a catalogue introduction on Cook's work for the general public?
  • Discuss how artists have used non-traditional material to construct artworks. Explain the reasons behind their selection of material and the aesthetic impact of the works.
  • How important is irony and humour in the work of Cook? Explain why these are important elements?

Artists Connections

Historical Contemporary
Meret Oppenheim Anne Graham
Eva Hesse Mikala Dwyer
Marcel Duchamp Gail Hastings
Piero Manzoni Kathy Temin
Jean Arp Julie Rrap
Carl Andre Komar & Melamid
Jean Tinguely Louise Bourgeois

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