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Studio Visit - Alison Cooley

Studio Visit

Studio visit with Alison Cooley

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. 

Q.

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

A.

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.

 

Q.

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

A.

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.  

 

Q.

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

A.

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

 

Q.

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

A.

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.  

  

Q.

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

A.

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.

  

Q.

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

A.

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.

  

Q.

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

A.

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

Q.

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

A.

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

  

Q.

Do you have a particular philosophy on life?

A.

Be kind.

 

Q.

We're excited about this new series of paintings! Tell us a little bit about these new works you’ve been creating, what's the story? 

A.

I’ve always been attracted to drawing and marking in painting. In my latest work, I’m creating a kind of written visual language that’s my own but is open to interpretation by the viewer. It’s like a “secret language” that I create in line, form and tone that I want people to read in their own way.

 

I’ve been looking at artists who use molten glass on paper (pyrography) and at the same time realized I was making my own “ancient language.” I love the sound of the word “chirograph” which refers to the study of writing by hand (chiro-) and also to medieval contracts. My own chirographs are language markings that are a two-way contract with the viewer.

  

Q.

What is your favorite quote?

A.

“All my smooth body” - the ghost in Hamlet.

  

Q.

What makes you laugh no matter what? 

A.

Keyboard Cat

 

Q.

Whats the first thing you do when you begin formulating an idea for a painting?

A.

Build a new playlist to create a gateway. Since I often work in a series, I edit and change the playlist as I move from one piece to the next.  In a way I am developing a soundtrack to my process, an audible experience that echoes and inspires the work

  

Q.

What does creativity mean to you?

A.

Being radically open to your senses and experiences. 

   

Advice to aspiring artists

"You are your best self and worst enemy in the studio…find the space right on the edge and go with it."

Q.

Tell us about some of your favorite artists?

A.

Recently I saw Cecily Brown speak at the National Gallery of Art and I loved hearing about how referencing the past informs her paintings.  Her sources included a wide reaching range of artists including Goya, Hogarth, Bruegel, among others.  Continuity is a such a big theme for me and “quoting” from the past is an intriguing and rich part of process.  I draw from so many different places — Nathan Oliveira, John Singer Sargent, Bernini, Miro.

  

Q.

What's something you can't do? 

A.

It’s weird, but I am awful at opening small packages so I have dozens of pairs of scissors around my studio and kitchen to snip open bags, boxes and cases. I’ll even cut an avocado with scissors. 

  

Q.

What's one thing you've always wanted to try but you've been too scared to do?

A.

Take flying lessons.

 

Q.

When do you make your best work?

A.

In the morning after a long walk outside. 

 

Q.

Is art making therapeutic for you?

A.

Yes, It’s essential for me and a key part of how I experience the world.

  

Q.

If you could travel anywhere to create for a while, where would you go?

A.

St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

Q.

What’s your studio philosophy?

A.

Just show up and work.

 

Q.

How many hours do you try and work in the studio per week?

A.

30-40 hrs.

 

Q.

Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what?

A.

Music is intertwined with my work, when I’m not painting, I am engaged in making playlists and discovering music that might take me on a new voyage.  Back in the day, I made some masterpiece mix tapes which I still have even though I don’t have a tape player.

 

Q.

What's the most adventurous thing you've done? 

A.

Pack up my family and move overseas.

 

Q.

Tools or mediums you’re dying to experiment with?

A.

Heat or wax.

 

Q.

What's next?

A.

We’ll see!

About Alison Cooley

Cooley's work acts as a collective portraiture, capturing the shifting fronts and clouds of humans moving through and around each other, leaving elements in their wake.

 

Read More

 

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