August 3, 2007

Beryl Cook: 80-year-old self-taught painter's work condemned by critics

"Beryl Cook," Baltic, Gateshead, through September 2.

In the Guardian, Adrian Searle asserts: "Beryl Cook: a homely, round name for a woman we imagine is also round and jolly and homely. Her art depresses me. I thought I would be able to summon some sort of enthusiasm for its Englishness, its playfulness, its sauciness. But I can't. The best that can be said is that Cook celebrates ordinariness - large women with large appetites, broad-shouldered men, hen parties, booze-ups, dances, dinners, shopping, sunbathing, a bit of slap and tickle. At least ordinariness in Cook's art is more various than one might think: the bloke next door is a shoe fetishist, and even Saga members like a bit of kinky sex. All the girls, and some of the boys, like a sailor. Cook's is an art without any pretentions other than to please." Read more.

Locals in Cook's neighborhood disagree: Rob Hodges, who stocks a large collection of Beryl Cook's work at the Barbican Gallery, said: "If everyone liked the same art, it would be boring. Who are the critics to say what is art and what isn't? "Her work deserves to be displayed in a national gallery because she's proved to be so popular over the years. People can recognise the characters and relate to the situations she paints."
Bob Chown, a retired fisherman, of Lambhay Street, on the Barbican, regularly sees the artist. 'She's a really down-to- earth lady and well-known in Plymouth. I reckon she's very good - she's clever and satirical.' Mr Chown, 67, who has a couple of small prints by Beryl Cook in his spare room, added: 'She's better than someone like da Vinci, in my mind.'"Read more in the Western Morning News.

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