Take a closer look. These paintings aren’t on canvas. Or linen, panels or boards. These luminous, poetically evocative works by Brandon Cook, which fill Finch Lane Gallery with a sense of hushed wonder, have been painted on sheets of metal.
With his exhibit Aeonic, a term that suggests an immeasurable or indefinitely long period of time, Cook premieres his newest body of work executed, oils on aluminum. The Ogden artist says these works are part of his continued experimentation with the painting process, something that has been so important to his work it at times eclipses the subject matter. It’s also a result of the tonalist masters that inspire his contemporary landscapes. “Nineteenth-century photography has always indirectly influenced my artwork,” he says. “The idea of the ferrotype (tintype) began to work its way into my creative thought process—an emulsion over iron.” What, he thought, about the transparencies of oil paint on a similarly reflective surface? “Painting on copper has been used by artists for centuries but its color would undermine what it is I wanted to achieve—light being reflected through transparent/semi-transparent paint layers.”
So Cook tried painting on aluminum, beginning with small sheets, feeling his way through the process and the new surface. “I stuck with what was familiar to me as I began to experiment with the metal,” he says. “Some subjects were revisited to gain an understanding of how painting on the metal differed from traditional processes and effects. As I increase in this knowledge I am finding that I am using it as a springboard into different realms of painting and I am excited to see how already my way of looking at my subject is changing.”
On a surface level, Cook’s works are landscapes — trees, fields, moody skies. But they are not windows to be gazed into, not majestic tourist scenes or charming snapshots from travels. The compositions are minimal: a single tree, or a line of trees, might stand in the middle of the canvas, above a reflective pool of water. Rather than pulling the gaze in, the works emanate outwards, making them spiritual or meditative experiences rather than traditional landscapes, celebrations of nature or scientific attempts to capture the look of changing weather.
Cook’s effects are subtle, the accumulation of numerous strokes, scrapes and smears. “Physically, working on the metal is more difficult as it takes more ‘elbow grease’ to build textures in order to soften and warm what is otherwise a very cold-looking material. The benefit, though, is that every mark is felt, seen and recorded. It would be easy for something of this nature to appear like a gimmick and so it has always been my intention for the end result to appear as any other traditional oil painting. I think this forces me into becoming an even better painter and I feel like I have just seen the tip of the iceberg as to where this may lead.”
Aeonic, Brandon Cook’s new exhibition of landscapes, opens at Finch Lane Gallery Friday, October 3, with a reception from 6 to 8 pm and runs through November 21. Cook will give gallery talks at 7 pm during the October 17th and November 21 Gallery Strolls. Showing concurrently, Finch Lane Gallery presents Altared Books: Offerings in Con(text), an exhibition of altered books by various artists.
The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.