A drawing by Jonathan Delafield Cook

The drawing is breath. And silence. Many drawings are noisy. A good drawing is silent. Why is it silent? Because it unfolds. And it is in the deployment that nothing is said. Also, the viewer has no time to establish any kind of silence. Jonathan Delafield Cook is a master drawer. And not “only” or “simply” because he would offer mimetic portraits of flowers or animals (you have to go and look at his extraordinary portraits of sheep and cattle). He is a master, because he succeeds in installing a rather upsetting relationship between mimesis and shifting: one thinks of a poppy, and yet it is not a poppy. One can evoke the Magritte of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”; although we’d be far from it: the pipe painted by Magritte does not look like a pipe. The bowl of Magritte’s pipe alone does not resemble the real one, made of briar root (even wood-like would not do it). The poppy drawn by Delafield Cook looks like a poppy, it is alive. Alive as an excellent mimesis can be. It’s breathtakingly refined. Look at those vegetal scrolls in the facing leaf, the white-gray gradations, the almost hidden revealed black pistil. It is admirable. And all in a sweetness. For it is also one of the characteristics of Delafield Cook, his inscription of softness (visible as much in his animals). And one could still look for words, but, at some point, comes to mind this sentence that arises when we are faced with great art: “How does he do that?” We ask ourselves this question when we do not know how it is done. Not that it would be a question of being able to do the same (we would be quite incapable of it), nor that it would be only a question of technique; it is something else. It must be emphasized: It is not because Delafield Cook imitates a poppy to near perfection that it is great art. It is an “almost perfection” because we can see that it is a drawing, precisely, and there is thus a shift between what we see and what we think, the entirety of it reaches what the philosopher Richard Wollheim (1968) calls “twofoldness”, that is to say the dyadic association (indissociably dual) between “seeing-as”, and “seeing-in” (as such). Here, in this drawing by Delafield Cook, we have this balance, both fragile and obvious, of seeing-as (drawing) and seeing-in as flower. And yet the birds of Zeuxis are not far away.  

Jonathan Delafield Cook, “Poppy III”, 2021, charcoal on linen, 80 x 112 cm, Purdy Hicks Gallery, London

 

Ref. Richard Wollheim, Art and its Objects, 2nd Ed., 1980, Cambridge, UK

 

Léon Mychkine

 

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