MAURICE COCKRILL RA

Contemporary Artists
Bath

Maurice Cockrill’s mark making can be seen as calligraphic: his brushstrokes are painted with an apparent freedom that disguises the discipline. The complexity of the canvases involves layering techniques and colours, pouring paint and blocking out sections only to be revealed in the painting’s final shape.

MAURICE COCKRILL RA

Biography

As Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools from 2004 to 2011, Maurice Cockrill worked at the heart of the Visual Arts world, and remains one of the most original artists working in Britain today. 

Cockrill’s first major group exhibition was Art in the City at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1967. Since then, he has held solo exhibitions internationally, such as at the Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf (1985), Annandale Galleries, Sydney, Australia, and Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London and New York. A retrospective of his work (1974-1994) was held at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (1995) as well as at the Royal West of England Academy (1998).

Cockrill’s paintings are in many private and public collections including the British Museum, Arts Council of Great Britain, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Maurice-cockrill-RA

Maurice Cockrill is famous for his breadth of techniques and themes, saying: ‘the artists I’ve admired most, like Picasso, are the protean ones. I’d rather be changing shape than just be doing the same thing time after time.’ Yet these paintings demonstrate a supreme confidence of colour and form: a synthesis and culmination of this extraordinary painter’s career.

The serpentine and lyrical curves in the works of this exhibition reveal Cockrill’s preoccupation with organic forms, especially water and the phases of a river. The curves in paintings can be seen as river-maps flowing round the canvases – reminiscent of series of pictures such as the ‘Conwy River Cycle’ (1998) – painted in Conwy estuary in North Wales, close to where the artist grew up – and ‘Spectral Rivers’ (2001). Rivers are important to Cockrill as they evoke the cycle of life – birth, maturity, decay and regeneration – that echo these central human preoccupations. The artist explains that a proximity to nature – whether in North Wales, or to his back garden in South London – helps him to address the realm of emotions rather than reason.

The complexity of the canvases involves layering techniques and colours, pouring paint and blocking out sections only to be revealed in the painting’s final shape. Two part compositions, where the canvas is divided in to two distinct sections suggest oppositions and divisions that are important in Cockrill’s work such as male and female, organic and cerebral, narrative and decorative, or freedoms and limitations. These were shown explicitly in Cockrill’s ‘Divided’ series (1999/2000) – where parts of the canvas were separated by colour and form. However in these recent paintings, the serpentine curves cross both sections of the canvas and give greater unity to the compositions. At times, it seems the two parts of the canvas are in dialogue, suggesting a narrative story-telling quality to the work.

Catalogue cover

'Open Gate' exhibition - pdf catalogue

Press article, RA 2009

Review of the show 'Open Gate' in the FT

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