Alison Cooley is a mark maker. Her canvases are filled with them, marks working together to tell stories of "interactions and entanglements". Her recent work explores the many connections between gestures and memory. We were lucky enough this week to catch up with Alison and to learn more about her practice and influences.
LIVES & WORKS IN Easton, Maryland
ON THE CLOCK Up early in the morning with my boys, a long walk outside, then studio time until the world wants me back.
YOUR ART WEEKEND Preparing canvas, finding space to work, traveling to a show.
ALBUM Afternoon by Eleni Mandell
FILM Doctor Zhivago
ARTIST Cy Twombly
BOOK "Die a Little" by Megan Abbott
LATEST PURCHASE A steel factory window frame
GUILTY PLEASURE Holiday music
GRADE IN ART CLASS A
36 HOURS East coast of Scotland, old castle, hike under huge wet skies, roaring fire, dinner and great wine with friends.
You mentioned that your paintings are inspired from human interaction and memory -- how have you developed your visual language to capture these ideas?
I've always explored atmosphere in relation to memory and connection. Right now I'm interested in handwriting as a visual marker. We write by hand less and less, yet I can instantly tell who left a note, visualize my grandmother’s writing on an envelope, or imitate a friend from high school’s scrawl. Penmanship, for lack of a better word, may be unconscious to the writer and immediately recognizable to the reader. Strokes and lines in my work pull from and exaggerate the idea of involuntary personal markings. I use different pens, pencils, pressure, and touch to express interactions and entanglements.
Can you talk about some of the main influences on your work, whether historical or contemporary?
I was very interested in the Bay Area Figurative painters early on, especially Diebenkorn, Bischoff, and then Oliveira. “Marking” artists continually capture my heart and I always return to Twombly who was not afraid of gestures laid bare. Jenny Saville reveals the human form with savagery and the most delicate palette.
How about your process? Can you tell us about how your work goes from idea to fully executed?
Continuity is a big theme for me -- I'd love to be able to enter the studio and work in a beautiful, uninterrupted stretch until a piece is complete -- but life happens. I rely on music, and sometimes literature, to keep me engaged with the mood of my work even when I'm not in the studio. I consciously create a “sensory soundtrack.” Playlists evolve, stories crest and fall, and seasons slowly change as a series of paintings comes to completion.