Barrie Cooke



Barrie Cooke

Past: February 3 → March 15, 2012

This Barrie Cooke exhibition organized at the Centre Culturel Irlandais presents c. twenty works that span from the 60s to the present-day including monumental oils, intimate watercolours and sculpture boxes.

« One of the shocking things is that there are very few things that aren’t beautiful » A major figure in the development of painting in Ireland, where he settled in 1954, Barrie Cooke is attuned to Figurative Expressionists such as Soutine and Kokoschka, whose School for Seeing he attended in 1955. His work has always been guided by sensory experiences: he thus admits being revolted yet irresistibly attracted to the shocking beauty of polluted water.

Now aged 80, Cooke lives and works on the shores of Lough Arrow in the west of Ireland but has travelled all over the world, constantly preoccupied by the formation, transformation and degradation of the environment (see Lough Arrow Algae, Fish, 2002).

Grounded in this visceral relationship with nature, his work is also profoundly marked by interaction with his poet friends — John Montague (who will open the exhibition), Seamus Heaney (Nobel Prizewinner) and Ted Hughes (British poet laureate) with whom he shares a fascination for the elemental. His monumental work Elk meets Sweeney (presented in the exhibition) is an emotional response to the old Irish legend of the maligned king Sweeney that was translated by Heaney in 1983. In Cooke’s diptych, this bird-king encounters the relics of an elk, an evocative prehistoric animal whose remains have been preserved in the bogland turf.

Cooke has explored different techniques throughout his career and, in the 1970s, his exploration of bones and articulations led him to create perspex boxes containing clay bone sculptures painted in layers of acrylic (see Forestry Box, 1976). His treatment of the nude, a recurring motif, also reflects his desire to seize the vitality of his subjects. As Karen Sweeney writes in the catalogue that accompanied the IMMA retrospective “His work is an exhortation to engage in the nexus between nature, spirituality and eroticism.” Born in England in 1931, Cooke studied art history and biology at Harvard University. Having moved to Ireland in 1954, he had his first solo exhibition in Dublin the following year and represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale in 1963. He has exhibited widely throughout Europe, the US and Canada. His most notable retrospectives include shows in the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (1986), the HaagsGemeentemuseum, The Hague (1992), and LAC, Perpignan, France (1995). His work is held in many collections worldwide.

  • Opening Thursday, February 2, 2012 6:30 PM → 8 PM
05 Paris 5 Zoom in 05 Paris 5 Zoom out

5, rue des Irlandais

75005 Paris

T. 01 58 52 10 30 — F. 01 58 52 10 99

Cardinal Lemoine
Place Monge

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 2 PM – 6 PM
Late night on Wednesday until 8 PM
Sunday, 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Closed Mondays and bank holidays

Admission fee

Free entrance

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Venue schedule

The artist

  • Barrie Cooke