William Delafield Cook Hillside 1985, acrylic on canvas, 195.5 x 216 cm. CBA collection. © William Delafield Cook.
I’m a self confessed Tarrawarra Museum of Art tragic. I attended the opening of this exhibition there before the silly season took off last year. Edmund Capon opened it. He’s such an impressive ambassador for the arts. He has a way of summing up the unique qualities of an artist’s work so that I completely get it. I’ve remembered his description because it was so so apt. It went something like this- William Delafield Cook’s works are “objects of experience” not “objects of information”. Yep, I get that.
Since viewing this exhibition I’ve been seeing the great Australian landscape with fresh eyes. I’ve heard myself comment- “That’s a William Delafield Cook landscape.”….when in fact that landscape has always been there, but I’ve never seen it quite like that before. Not since first seeing the work of painter Fred Williams has an artist so transformed my experience of the landscape. What power his works have. How does he do that?
William Delafield Cook Tree 2001, charcoal on canvas, 136 x 136 cm. Private collection. © William Delafield Cook. (above left) William Delafield Cook Tree 1999, acrylic on canvas, 136 x 136 cm. Private collection. © William Delafield Cook (above right)
On hearing that William Delafield Cook lives and works in London, I thought that would be an impediment to producing this work. The truth is, that’s the secret. It is in fact the distance from it that provides the perfect environment in which to crystalize his images. In the catalogue which accompanies the exhibition William Delafield Cook. A Survey, the author Simon Gregg (curator of the Gippsland Art Gallery) published an excerpt from an email he received from Delafield Cook where he eloquently describes this process,
My feeling about the process of removing oneself at intervals from direct contact with the source of one’s subject matter is that distancing intensifies the experience of the place, makes it in recollection more vivid. By squirreling it away, then retrieving it at a later date, you can recover it, repossess it, see what it is that should happen to it. (pg. 5)
Then later Simon Gregg comments with equal eloquence,
He affords us neither a topographically accurate view, nor a landscape transformed through emotion or energy, but the pure idea of land filtered through memory, in which all voices and activities are silenced, and the spirit of the earth can peacefully emerge. (pg.5)
This is no ordinary artist and these are no ordinary paintings. The exhibition requires the viewer to take time to find a silent place, viewer and artwork together, to fully appreciate its impact.
William Delafield Cook Gundagai Revisited 2006, acrylic on linen, 76 x 183 cm. Private collection. © William Delafield Cook.
ABC TV’s Art Nation put together a must see doco about this exhibition. If you missed it, you can catch up with it here. I thoroughly recommend it!
William Delafield Cook Hanging Rock 1985, acrylic on canvas, 122.3 x 198 cm. TarraWarra Museum of Art. © William Delafield Cook
William Delafield Cook Promontory 1981, acrylic on canvas, 121.5 x 209 cm. Private collection. © William Delafield Cook
If you’re up for a ‘hat trick’ of experience on your visit to TWMA, make a booking at the Tarrawarra Estate restaurant where chef Robin Sutcliffe offers delicious food in gorgeous surroundings. Also, treat yourself to a little experience of local wine in the Tarrawarra Estate tasting room and take a bottle of your choice with you to enjoy the experience all over again in your own home.
You have until the 12th of February to see this exhibition. TWMA is open every day in January until Australia Day, to cater for the influx of holiday makers.
Next up on Isiiad- TWMA’s exhibition, The Ecstasy of Infrastructure by 2010 Archibald winner Sam Leach .