Works by Sarah Cook: Encountering Light Between the Shadows of Chaos and Order

Sarah Cook, Icarus Sarah Cook, Icarus, 2018. Oil on canvas. Photo: J.M. Fager Photography. In a world that is in constant motion, we all look for that fleeting moment of quietude, that meditative space, where we can enjoy a brief period of mindfulness. In the latest exhibition at Everybody’s CoffeeStill Point — Chicago artist Sarah Cook explores how these quiet spaces are often present in the world around us. The power of Cook’s work is in how she creates a sense of motion through her use of geometric patterns, organic fractals, and figures that seem to vibrate on the canvas. Initially, when one looks at her work, one may feel that her use of shapes and colors is a random act as they battle for space on the canvas. But upon closer inspection, one sees that these shapes and colors are instead merging in an almost playful manner in order to peacefully co-exist. Her art is almost like a study in quantum physicsillustrating the nature and behavior of matter and energy and their influence upon each other. Cook’s strong command of patterns and color also allows her to create an impact in her narration. Some of her works such as Converge to Entropy and Ultraviolet Catastrophe convey an explosive energy while other works such as Ideal World express a dance-like quality. “What makes Cook’s work so powerful is that she blends the abstract with the representational,” said Karl Sullivan, general manager as well as co-curator at Everybody’s Coffee. He also added, “I think the strength of her work is that each person can look at one of her paintings and bring their own unique perspective to it. I don’t think there is one interpretation that defines her art.” Sarah Cook, Agnes, Judith, and Agath Sarah Cook, Agnes, Judith, and Agatha, 2017. Acrylic on paper. Photo: J.M. Fager Photography. Some of her paintings are based on her own narrative, but other works are a reflection of stories and poems that are found in literature and mythology. When viewing the painting, Icarus, that is based on Greek mythology, Cook plays with the dynamics of light and color to create the narrative of how Icarus perishes when he flies too close to the sun. In Serpent Feast, there are biblical implications about good and evil as we see a serpent that seems to be devouring its own self—illustrating that perhaps evil is its own worst enemy and will overcome its own self in the end. Equally powerful is Agnes, Judith and Agatha—a painting based on the stories of the virgin martyrs St. Agnes and St. Agatha and also on the apocryphal Book of Judith. And Through a High Window is inspired by the poem, The Arrivals, by Anne Kennedy. There is also an ethereal quality in some of Cook’s paintings. She creates a contemplative mood in Pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire. Both of these paintings have the effect of a mandalainviting the viewer to experience a moment of mental stillness. Sarah Cook, Pillar of Cloud Sarah Cook, Pillar of Cloud, 2018. Oil on canvas. Photo: J.M. Fager Photography. Another compelling work is Prototypes for a Flame Alphabet. In this work that was created with charcoal on paper, Cook creates 25 different images of flames that represent letters or symbols. Even though each flame is isolated within its own separate box, there is an underlying tension that brings them together to act as one cohesive unit—an alphabet to form a new language. “When working on my art, I like to take something that is deeply personal to me and try to make it more universal so that people can make their own personal connection to my work,” said Cook. What makes Still Point an impressive exhibition is how Cook creates a narrative as she observes the rhythms of daily life. The fluidity in her work allows her to portray life as a perpetual dance, moving at different speeds and unpredictable directions, while still allowing us to find that moment of stillness despite the motion around us. This exhibition will be on display through April 19 at Everybody’s Coffee, located at 935 W. Wilson. Hours: Monday thru Friday 6:30am to 8pm; Saturday 7am to 8pm; and Sunday 7am to 5pm.
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Thomas Wawzenek