Tanzanian by birth, European by heritage, British-American by nationality, Jeannine Cook is one of a small number of artists worldwide who specialize in silverpoint drawing. Her luminous watercolor paintings complement her shimmering drawings executed in silver. Cook’s work is in many public collections in the United States and Europe. She was a La Porte Peinte artist in residence twice during 2014, and she will be joining us again for two residencies in 2015. During her time with us in 2014, we presented Scintillances, a solo show of her work, and in association with the show she gave an inspiring talk and participatory demonstration of silverpoint at the Musée des Arts Naïfs et Populaires de Noyers. Cook’s work was subsequently included in the quotidiæn show in 2014, and new works completed in Burgundy will be shown during summer 2015, as part of the same show.

What leads an artist to specialise in one medium rather than in another? Partly personal interests, perhaps, along with a comfort level with certain technical aspects of the medium.  Or perhaps it ultimately comes down to that small inner voice saying to the artist – “this is special”.

In my case, I really fell in love with the lustrous, discreet voice of silver, gold or copper marks on a smooth prepared surface.  The sensuous feel of a stylus on the drawing surface, the delicacy and exactitude of the line made, the technical fascination particularly of watching how each silverpoint drawing oxidises and evolves with time… all contribute to my love of drawing in metal. While drawing is slow and meditative (metalpoint originated in early medieval monasteries…), there is also a sense of risk. You cannot easily erase the marks made, so there is always the latent challenge of “can I succeed in doing what I want with this drawing and can I push out the boundaries of what metalpoint can do today?”

Metalpoint has long been used in nature studies, thanks to its permanence and exactitude of line.  I thoroughly enjoy combining my lifelong love of plants, rocks, feathers… with my passion for metalpoint drawing.  Tree bark patterns, so intricate but so individualistic, become realistic, yet abstract compositions. The marvellous details in stones can lead to subtle, complex voyages of discovery and fantasy. Flowers, too, with their elegant structure, lend themselves to silverpoint’s restrained and shimmering exploration.

The 21st century world often needs quietly powerful voices in art as a counterbalance to the over-technicolour, hyper-stressed aspects of our lives. I celebrate the resurgence of interest in metalpoint drawings in our times, for this medium is a still, pure voice of calm.

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