Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Sad Passing

Though I'm usually perplexed when overly popular artists/writers are lauded, the news that Beryl Cook has died proves an exception. Whenever I see her work, I can't do anything but smile. Her burly grotesques have more humanity than you'd find in a Lowry for instance, and I kind of think theres an affinity with the kitsch of Jeff Koons; though no doubt no art critic would deign to make the link. Koons is an interesting comparison, because although there's a sense that he must be "ironic" his work, when it works, works without irony - Michael Jackson and Bubbles; the glorious "Puppy". Cook's work is both instantly identifiable as hers, and also not that far removed from her contemporaries - and the humanity of her characters, scenes and the unstereotypical nature of her stereotypes puts her head and shoulders above similarly stylised painters. "The best that can be said is that Cook celebrates ordinariness," says the Guardian, quoting Adrian Searle, which, I have to say, misses the point of her paintings. There's nothing ordinary about her crowded tableaus - the very crowding is surrealist in instinct - and nothing ordinary about her grotesques either. All human life is there.

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