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Alison Cooley | An Interview

Alison Cooley is a Washington native currently residing in London, England. Her detailed works explore everything from the daily interactions of people to the effects of the weather. Her most recent series, Chirographs, uses lines and forms to create a sort of ancient language that invites the viewer to come up with his or her own interpretation. 

Read our interview with Alison and see more of her work below. 


What is the primary question art is addressing today? What questions do you address?

Art allows people to connect with experiences that may not be their own, and right now, that’s vital.  Imagination is fundamentally about going somewhere, being something you are not already. Art has the potential to transform by eroding the walls of intolerance and isolation. 

Other than the genre you work in, what other types of art do you most enjoy?

Music. It’s an essential component to my practice and brings pleasure to almost anything.  I just saw a beautiful selection of musical manuscripts at the Morgan Library — the notations were so personal. It’s remarkable that these modest, bobbing markings and swoops create the skeleton for an invisible sound experience.

 What artist has given you the best advice? What was it?

I heard Cecily Brown speak and she said that drawing creates the muscle memory for painting. I love that.


Do you remember the first piece you created which you felt was a “work of art,” and what was it?

A really enormous ink drawing of a field.  It was 14 feet high and to took a tremendous amount of time…so long that I felt that I was floating away then returning to the conscious process.  It was a perfect cocktail of discipline and flow state.


How do you move past a creative block when you run out of ideas?

I’m not sure you ever run out of ideas. The short answer is go to work, never turn away, there’s always something growing in the garden.

How has your art changed from when you first started creating? 

My work was deeply informed by landscape for many years…the horizon was a vital element. Now my work is much more organic, lots of undulation, oscillation, atmosphere…and the horizon has vanished.


How would you define the role social media plays in art? Art making? Art promoting? 

Social media democratizes art and encourages a certain visual literacy that people didn’t have a decade ago.  


Price aside, is there a particular art object you would like to possess?

I’d be very happy with a Lisa Yuskavage picture.


An art collection celebrates the social & political world a collector wants to inhabit. Do either of you personally collect, and if so what and why?

I like to support other working artists. I have visited some amazing private collections and so often the collector will say, "You know, I’ve really just collected what I’ve loved over the years.”  The heart is a good guide.


Who are some of the artists working today that you look to for inspiration or admire?

Lately I’ve been drawn to three dimensional work — Stephane Gautier, Sarah Sze, Tara Donovan.


Are there one or two books that have had a dramatic impact on your thinking?

Wordsworth’s The Prelude, Flaubert’s Letters.


Do you have a particular philosophy on life?

Be kind.