For more than a decade, Cook has used liquid graphite, a medium he developed that combines graphite powder, resin and other solvents. His technique lends itself to a range of mark-making, from the rapid and improvisational to the nely detailed, and when applied to coated paper, it results in a fusion of drawing and painting.
Shadows We Run For draws its subject matter from seventeenth-century Dutch still life painting. What began as study of Willem van Aelst and Ambrosius Bosschaert has expanded to include a meditation on both historical imperialism and the contemporary spread of capitalism across the globe. Dutch Golden Age still lifes served to visualize the wealth of the Dutch empire, which rose to power with the success of the Dutch East India Company. Using liquid graphite, Cook renders these sumptuous and traditionally richly colored tableaux in black and gray. ough darkness and shadow are established tropes in the original genre, Cook employs them here to illuminate what he recognizes as “a ‘coming of age’ of capitalism and materialism.” is critique prompted Cook to incorporate imagery associated with present-day capitalism, such as drones, plastic soldiers, temporary encampments and pylons, into his reinterpretations of traditional Dutch still lifes. He explains that “these elements were selected to re ect current capitalist discord: exploitation, con ict and protectionism,” while striving for “balance between reverence for the original works and this destabilizing tendency.”
ough working in grayscale, Cook achieves remarkable luminosity and textural variation in his paintings. In Euro ghter (2017), a table arranged with luscious fruit, fresh owers and sparkling glassware is disrupted by the intrusion of two ghter jets speeding across the picture plane. Gleaming grapes and a crystal vase serve as counterpoints to the matte metal aircra s, while other bits of fruit and owers sit precariously on the table’s edge or dri into the background. e dynamism of the scene re ects Cook’s process: because the liquid graphite dries quickly, he has a limited amount of time to revise the imagery as it develops. He negotiates with the medium, adding pigment and wiping away until the composition is resolved. While Cook’s omission of color may make the intentional anachronism of Euro ghter’s elements less jarring, it throws an unsettling imperialist impulse into relief.