This review first appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on the 4 June 2017.
The National Gallery showed good judgement in purchasing Big Hot Tub from Barrie Cooke’s current show at the Oliver Sears Gallery. Not alone has it got a signature painting by a major artist, but it has also acquired a depiction of another distinguished figure in Irish art, Camille Souter. She was a friend of Cooke’s and the inspiration for the nude emerging from the tub. The works in the show are from his studio (from which apparently more paintings will emerge next year) and compromise a mini-retropsective – spanning his career from 1960 to 2008. The quality and diverse range of the work will come as a pleasant surprise to many Cooke admirers who had grown disenchanted with his late career obsession with rock snot and pollution. There’s a glowering Sheela-na-Gig from 1960 that emanates primitive energy, a number of intimate nudes and some evocative water colours from a visit he made to South Africa in 2007.
Oliver Sears Gallery
John P. O'Sullivan