The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

CULTURE CLUB

- Michael Cook – Natures Mortes, until May 1, Andrew Baker Art Dealer, 26 Brookes Street, Bowen Hills. andrew-baker.com

PNature Morte (Exploitati­on); a work from his series Undiscover­ed; artist Michael Cook.

“He is easily one of the top five most exciting artists working in Australia today”

hotographe­r Michael Cook is one of Australia’s most intriguing artists and I sometimes boast that I discovered him. Okay that may be stretching it but there is a kernel of truth in this.

In 2008 I got a call from the artist, now internatio­nally renowned, asking me whether I would like to do a story on him.

Cook, who was a fashion and wedding photograph­er at the time, had just come from nowhere to be named Visual Artist of the Year at the 14th Annual Deadly Awards, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards for the arts. His win was a surprise because no one had ever really heard of him before.

I was intrigued and went to his small office nearby to interview him and write a piece. It has been my immense pleasure since then to write many more articles about this extraordin­ary artist who is now known globally. He remains a down-toearth, very nice bloke, unaffected by his success but certainly happy about it.

If you look at his CV it is impressive and his work is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, QAGOMA and in most major Australian collection­s and many overseas where he has a growing legion of fans.

Cook, who lives on the Sunshine

Coast, has faithfully exhibited in Brisbane with Andrew Baker Art Dealer in Bowen Hills. I walked there the other day to see Cook’s latest exhibition, Natures Mortes, an extraordin­ary photograph­ic show featuring Cook’s usual imaginativ­e tableaus. In a catalogue essay arts writer Louise Martin-Chew explains that “in this new series Michael Cook moves into the art historical tradition of still life, while continuing to explore the devastatin­g impact of colonisati­on on Australia’s First Nations peoples”.

Inspired by the Dutch masters Cook has meticulous­ly crafted intricate still life works then photograph­ed them to look like the works of old masters. The detail is incredible and yet again Cook blows us all away with his skills and imaginatio­n.

With each new series Cook explores ideas that reflect his Indigenous heritage.

He deals in ideas without bitterness but with a profound sense of social justice. He is very honest. He often features Aboriginal people in apparently unusual situations … in colonial uniforms and garb or in his series Majority Rule he fills the streets and the parliament with Aboriginal people turning the tables on the dominant paradigm. One of his most amazing series was Through My Eyes, which depicts Australia’s prime ministers from Edmund Barton in 1901 to Julia Gillard in 2010, through an Indigenous gaze. It was a brilliant artistic gambit.

A high point for me was his amazing 2018 Invasion series in which Cook staged, photograph­ically, in Hitchcock fashion (inspired by films such as The Birds) an Indigenous invasion of London by giant aliens who just happen to be Australian fauna and even some lasershoot­ing Aboriginal fembots. Brilliant and quite cinematic using backdrops shot in London and then laid over with images shot in a studio in Sydney with a film setsized crew. Cook shoots on location and then builds his photos in those studio shoots using actors and props. He is easily one of the top five most exciting artists working in Australia today and you can wander along to Andrew Baker Art Dealer and see for yourself. I guarantee that you will be blown away. I was and still am. So glad I discovered him. Ha!

White Horse Ranch is elegant and inviting; breakfast is all day. Pictures: waffles, while lunch, which kicks in from 11am, adds favourites like fried calamari, a burger and tacos. Portions are hefty, with the baked chorizo and eggs ($19), in particular, requiring a serious appetite. Arriving piping hot out of the oven, the bowl brims with a paprika-spiced tomato and capsicum soup laden with kidney beans and generous chunks of chorizo, while two baked eggs fused together with melted provolone cheese float like a raft across the surface. A dice of raw tomato on top provides a hit of freshness against the smoky sausage, while the side of buttered toasted ciabatta makes for a sophistica­ted dippy soldier. The vegan-friendly autumn bruschetta ($17), meanwhile, is an ode to seasonal produce and the cafe’s philosophy of celebratin­g local ingredient­s, featuring roasted pumpkin crowning toasted rye with stewed beetroot, blistered cherry tomatoes, grilled flat mushrooms, pine nuts, leek puree and a cashew “parmesan”. Although the sentiment is to be applauded, the dish is calling out for a walloping with the flavour stick, perhaps starting with swapping the vegan parmesan for the real dairy version, which would instantly impart a salty, umami kick.

Coffee is made with Melbourne’s Locale beans and arrives smooth and chocolatey as a flat white, even on light milk; while my friend gives a big thumbs up to the chai for its spicy blend. There are also old-school milkshakes, freshly made juices and smoothies packed with superfood ingredient­s such as blue agave nectar and flaxseed.

There’s a lot to like about White Horse Ranch and as it settles into the neighbourh­ood, it’s sure to become a suburban favourite.

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Mark Cranitch
HEARTY: Mark Cranitch

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