Contenders in the picture on Northern Art Prize shortlist
The shortlist for the Northern Art Prize has been announced. Sheena Hastings talks to Liadin Cooke, one of the four artists.
LIADIN Cooke’s work is often sparked off some small thing she observes. The Huddersfield-based artist likes to explore the historical and emotional significance of sites and objects around her. Some time ago she saw a sampler at the V&A, an original embroidery from around 1830. Composed entirely of text, it tells the tragic story of a young maid called Elizabeth Parks, who went into service at 13 and was abused by an employer. In among the 700-odd words she refers to herself as ‘one of the most miserable objects the Lord ever created...’ and recounts how she moved from job to job before apparently having a nervous breakdown.
Cooke’s piece Miserable Object, one of several pieces she has entered as a group for the Northern Art Prize, is her response to the heartrending story distilled in canvas and thread. The strands that unite her work are the concepts of attachment and loss, she says.
Cooke’s abstract drawing using red wax attempts to mimic the passion and skill of the original while also showing her own mastery and control of her medium.
“Elizabeth had lost everything, and I wanted to reflect that. Although the stitching is regular and controlled, in between the lines there is incredible pain, neurosis and lack of control.” The effect of Cooke’s piece is that of a soul caught in a straitjacket.
Her Felicic Bar is a mass of green wax wrapped around a brass bar, somehow suggestive of danger and hidden life. The artist took her idea and the title from the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s ‘felicic calculus’ devised to measure pleasure and pain.
This is the first time Cooke has been nominated for the Northern Art Prize. This time 23 artists of hugely varying ages and practising in many different media were nominated by luminaries of the art world, and that group has been whittled down to four finalists, whose work is now on show at Leeds Art Gallery. The winner of the £16,500 prize will be announced on January 19. Another of Cooke’s five pieces, Things That Have Been Thrown Away, features a cultured pearl lost amid a bed of ground up nettles, echoing Cooke’s childhood habit of throwing a tantrum then hurling a prized object into a nettle bed.
The four shortlisted artists display a wonderful and exhilarating range of ideas and styles, from Leo Fitzmaurice’s need to re-order the everyday items we almost don’t see in his slide show The Way Things Appear and Horizon (Leeds) in which he creates a new work by linking the horizons in 20 paintings from the Leeds Art Gallery Collection. James Hugonin’s mysterious series of large abstract paintings and smaller screen prints are each made up of 55,000 individual marks of colour, and each image took a year to make.
Richard Rigg provokes the viewer into thinking again about ordinary objects, as he turns them into conundrums and playful propositions. This is a high quality field.
NORTHERN SOULS: Huddersfield-based artist Liadin Cooke (main picture and above right), one of the four shortlisted artists for the Northern Art prize; and Sarah Brown, Curator of Exhibitions, Leeds Art Gallery, with work by Leo Fitzmaurice, another of...