Stephen Cook’s Boon Street art studio is a study in opposites. On one wall, you’ll find a spare, red-haloed figure, furiously drawn in charcoal on paper. On the floor beneath it is a glossy, large-scale painting with innumerable layers of drips and pours.
“Whatever is coming out of me today is often different than what came out of me the day
before,” says Cook.
On August 19, the artist debuts a collection of new work in “Automatic,” a solo exhibition at
OneWay Gallery. The show’s title is derived from the practice of automatic drawing, where —
like the Dadists and Surrealists — an artist allows the work to pour from within. Cook also uses external forces, including music, as motivation. He cites Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Rancid and Eric Prydz as influences for “Automatic.”
The same way a musician appeals to listeners through song lyrics and rhythms, Cook uses his
aggressive, movement-based art to connect with viewers on a visceral level. Oftentimes, music and art overlap. “My Disease, My Infection,” the aforementioned red-haloed figure, is titled after a lyric in the Nine Inch Nails song, “Reptile.”
Other paintings reflect the artist’s emotional range. In “Down the River” and “Up the Creek,”
Cook juxtaposes lilies in white, pink and purple tones over stormy layers of paint on canvas. A deliberation on innocence lost, the purity of lilies — a flower that played a prominent role in Cook’s childhood — is threatened by the menacing force of an accumulation of life experience.
“I’ll Be Holding onto You,” a piece Cook began years ago after a death of a friend, was recently completed after the artist added a single line of text to the canvas. The resulting work is a timeworn contemplation on loss.
“When you’re dealing with grief, you have to keep working through it,” Cook says. “It’s still there; there’s no end in sight.”
In another “Automatic” standout, Cook took an unfinished abstract painting in teal, yellow and black — “I personally didn’t have a connection with it,” he says — and coated it in a thin layer of gold paint. He then added an abrasive set of white wings. The resulting work is “The Becoming,” a representation of the artist’s personal metamorphosis over his twenty-year career.
Although “Automatic” features a diverse assemblage of work — all with unique back-stories — Cook says the collection is bound by a common thread: the chemical, emotional rush of making art.
“That’s the feeling I’m looking for,” he says.
The public is invited to an opening reception on August 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Complimentary
refreshments will be served. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday from 5 to 8
p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m., and by appointment. The
exhibition runs through September 30.