In The Studio: Richard Cook, painter
'There is a force that has to emerge untouched and that is the painting'
Friday 01 March 2013
Richard Cook initially moved to Cornwall to get more space to paint. He was living in a flat on Hampstead Heath, studying at the Royal College of Art, when he found a house in Newlyn where he and his partner, fellow painter Partou Zia, now sadly deceased, could live and work together.
The house is tucked away down a back street of Newlyn, and would have a great view of the sea but for a large painting that obscures the window – a view of the Black Mountains in Wales. It's a subject that Cook has often returned to: "I did a series of drawings there and the painting happened three or four years later. It's not thinking, it is engendering, and the thing comes out when it's ready." Cook is someone who chooses not to go looking for new places to observe, preferring, he says, to plough his furrows more deeply, returning to "his" fields over and over.
Cook's studio is upstairs; the floor, studded by years and years of paint, is uneven and difficult to stand on. The walls are lined with still-wet paintings, while books and sketch-books lie open nearby, some revealing rapid pen and ink drawings, others showing more finished and muscular watercolour studies.
We have been talking about Courbet and he points at some drawings he had made from Courbet when he was last in the National Gallery, as well as an open catalogue from Courbet's show under an easel. "I could not have set this up," he says, laughing. "I love Courbet. There is a poetic understanding of the world that I feel at one with. All painting goes back to Courbet and Manet. It is a passing on of a sort of truth and knowledge."
While studying with Leon Kossoff, Cook recalls when Kossoff approached him sketching in the library and said, "They are very good but can you be a little more primitive." "He released something in me and became a sort of father, but then I had to go my own way. I have set myself free from that."
The confidence and insight that Cook expresses about his own technique may help explain the making of the works. The actual execution of a large painting can be extremely fast, taking only three, four or five minutes. "I paint with my hands. I don't look. There is a force that I have to allow to emerge untrammelled and untouched and that is the painting".
The canvasses reveal the speed in which they were created by their spare use of paint and large gestural brushstrokes. They have an unmistakably raw energy. His self-assurance comes through as he proclaims, "I am not really a Cornish painter, I am Richard and I am a painter and I have a lot of belief in what I am doing."
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Poldark finale episode 8, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
Peter Kay’s Car Share, TV review: The perfect vehicle for Kay’s comic talents
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove