For one day only, on Saturday 29 September, two local artists – Nicola Cook and Catherine Whitesite – will be exhibiting collections of new work at the gallery ‘According to McGee’, on Tower Street, in central York. The exhibition is called “BIO” and features new collections of paintings, drawings and photographs on many aspects of nature. This is the first exhibition to be held by Nicola and Catherine, and they have chosen this particular gallery to exhibit, as it was here, seven years ago, where they met with co-directors Ails & Greg McGee who were running evening art classes. Plenty has been learned over those years, and now, all are welcome to come and enjoy the many and varied collections of work that make up the ”BIO” exhibition.
According to McGee gallery, best known for its celebration of all things edgy, provocative and contemporary, is switching into relaxed mode for its late September show, ‘Bio’, featuring work by Yorkshire based artists Nicola Cook and Catherine Whitesite. Both artists are dedicated to reflecting the beauty of nature, whether it’s trees, butterflies, puffins or horses, a world away, it seems, from the gallery’s recent ultra minimalist exhibitions.
“Both Nicola and Catherine are craftswomen, and have very specific respective visions. This is just as far away from parish hall art as some of the more modern work we’ve recently shown. You can’t fake skill and a sense of style, and these two have it on every level. There’s also an real effervescent energy.”
A case in point would be Catherine’s seascapes. The artist feels most at home there, it appears. “The sun is shining, the beach is a colourful mosaic of towels, toys and wind breaks, and the sound of shrieks and laughter fills the air . . . if this is your kind of beach you are officially a glass half full! If, on the other hand, the waves are rolling in with an incredible turquoise intensity, the sky is a dramatic show of denim and purple, and the sand glows golden with a shaft of storm light . . . your beach is my kind of beach!
These paintings are based loosely on the far west Cornish coast where storms roll in from the Atlantic.”
Catherine’s partner in crime is Nicola Cook who, like Catherine, has enough reverence for the beauty of nature to make it a priority in her art work, but is perhaps a little more experimental. One only has to look at her ‘Autumn Leaf Collection’, inspired by a trip to New England in autumn, 2011, to see an artist happy to tug and pull at accepted techniques. Nicola recalls her time in USA last year, “As I drove north from Boston, the city was soon left behind me, and all around were gentle hills, completely covered with deciduous forest, stretching for miles towards the horizon, in every direction. I did not think that there were this many deciduous trees left in the world, and it was a glorious revelation.
This was only early ‘fall’, but amid the beautiful green foliage, one tree, or one branch would leap out of the vista, with its vibrant crimson, orange and yellow colours. These bold trees and branches were like jewels, caught by the sun.
I knew I needed the most vibrant colour palette that I could find, and I was reminded of the beautiful silk landscape paintings of local artist, Chris Pollard. As a result, I decided to use silk paints, but, not one to follow convention, I instead sought to use these paints on paper, not silk. I introduced the black ink drawing to ensure that shape was focussed, whilst the silk was allowed to run and merge, just as the colours in those autumn leaves did.”
The result is an intelligently composed, sensitively curated exhibition that is, alas, open for one day only. As is the McGee way, Ails has the last word, “Most graduates would give their left pinkie to be able to draw, paint and experiment as persuasively as these two accomplished artists. What I think is key is a constant, instinctive yearning to pin down and delineate what they feel when they are at their most serene. It’s an exhausting habit, and it’s not for everyone. Experiencing beauty is one thing, recording it and then remixing as well as this takes a real artistic flair.”