So I got round to seeing the oft-maligned Beryl Cook exhibition at the BALTIC on Sunday. A lot of the controversy has surrounded this in the local and national press as the exhibition of populist, commercial art at a venue like the BALTIC is deemed inappropriate.
Cook isn’t really my cup of tea I admit. There’s no doubting that there’s something engaging about the work and I admit that it was a reasonable enough diversion. Interestingly it’s the busiest I have ever seen the Baltic – especially on a Sunday afternoon, which I think says something about both Cook and the BALTIC.
So what, there was something popular on in an art gallery. I like my contemporary art as much as the next man, but I didn’t feel mortally offended by the inclusion of Cook. The exhibition was well lit, had a good number of paintings, some of which I recognised. A couple of things struck me though. Cook is often listed as painting ‘fat people’ a label which even makes it into her (desperately needing edits) Wikipedia article. After seeing this exhibition, I don’t think she paints fat people at all, I think she just paints people, who in her rather cartoonish style, appear to be overweight. It’s like suggesting the Simpsons is about ‘yellow people’ really. The other thing that struck me was she’s really rather adept at catching facial expressions, but not consistently. The pictures I found most interesting were the ones with the most intriguing expressions, and I feel that the lack of this in some of her works makes it easy to dismiss her as some pictures really do lack (to me) a certain depth.
Did a quick tour of some of the rest of the BALTIC, mainly to revisit the completely awesome Freakshow exhibit. My two favourite items from that show are on this page. The jaw line of that cat skeleton is 6 feet off the ground, it’s an excellent and imposing piece and I will miss it when it’s gone.
All change at the BALTIC in September, I can’t wait. It’s still my favourite place to be in NewcastleGateshead.