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Seascapes & Chalk Caves

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Jean Cooke, Cave Painting 1965

“On the beach at low tide, under a full moon, every stone is a work of art.”

Jean Cooke’s life-long association with the Sussex coast, particularly Birling Gap and the nearby village of East Dean, is explored and celebrated in a new exhibition of her work at London’s Piano Nobile gallery.

This beautiful exhibition focuses on a significant body of paintings, pastels and drawings representing a variety of different views and aspects of the beach, coast and sea made between 1963 and 2007.and coincides with inclusion of her work in Pallant House Gallery’s exhibition Sussex Landscapes: Chalk, Wood and Water. Although Cooke has largely remained an enigmatic figure in the pantheon of British art, it is hoped that this exhibition will do much to restore her status and presence in the public consciousness.

Cooke continued to paint on the beach until the end of her life. In 1979, she remarked: “Each winter I hibernate and then with the first sun, like an old tortoise, I amble out with bleary eyes and start to see again…”. In the following decade, she observed: “I am beginning to realise the full force of colour in space,” as paintings such as Small Seascape, Each Grain of Sand and View from the Cliff Edge (all 2007) becoming increasingly minimalist with pebbles, waves, and scudding clouds quickly and loosely rendered. At this juncture in her career, the process of painting had become, she said, “more and more beautiful the more simplified it is. It’s rather like a spiritual high.”

Piano Nobile’s show is accompanied by a major publication about Jean Cooke and her connection with East Sussex. It includes the first comprehensive chronology of the artist ever compiled and an essay by Jane Alison, former Head of Visual Arts at the Barbican, which considers Cooke's work in the context of eco-feminism. Rarely seen photographs of Cooke and the artist's own photographs of Sussex are also published here for the first time.

Jean Cooke: Seascapes & Chalk Caves:  3 March – 10 May 2023

Further Information;  Piano Nobile (