Alison Cooley

Artist Statement

Right now, surface drives my work.  I’m using two different papers with a limited selection of acrylic inks, water-soluble pencils, wax crayons, and archival pens.  The same materials take on different characteristics on each paper.

As the Tidal series explores our relationship to a dissolving natural world, I like the juxtaposition of a natural rag paper and a synthetic polypropylene surface. Similarly the markings in the paintings reflect both organic and decidedly man-made components. The repetition of symbols and shapes suggest natural elements and the relentless continuity of nature.  Other markings, including intertwined bubbles and text-like passages reflect human imprint on the environment.

The yupo paper is indestructible, glassy, and vividly plastic.  While it is super tough and tear resistant, the surface can be fragile and malleable.  It allows me to take away entire areas of paint without a trace.  The paper has no absorbent quality, so the ink hovers and pools on the surface. I typically mix the colors right on the piece, adding water or pigment. The yupo has a sharpness to it — the ink stays bright, the pen marks can be razor-like, and the pencils and crayons almost crumble against the synthetic surface. It takes a long time for the ink to dry, so I like to have multiples going at once.  Eventually, as the liquid evaporates, the paper is stained by both the pigment and ghostly rings where the weight of the ink once rested. Water markings remain visible in each finished piece.

The cotton rag paper sucks everything dry. The inks have virtually no time to mix on the surface, so I’ll use a palette. Deep colors are layered over and over as they are soaked up. Pens and pencils take on a slightly velvety quality, wax crayons merge seamlessly with the surface.  Scrubbing out ink or subtracting elements leave foggy remains.  The rag paper takes everything in and is resistant to giving anything up. 

As I work with the two surfaces in rhythmic alteration, I’m finding a whole new dimension to my work. The challenges of each medium play off of each other, the limitations of one feed the possibilities of the other. As each completed piece takes shape, the dialogue continues - ease and effort, compliance and resistance, harmony and dissonance..”
— Alison Cooley

Artist Bio

Alison Cooley was born in Washington, DC and studied painting at Sarah Lawrence College. Cooley’s atmospheric abstraction draws on material juxtapositions and a language of repetitive markings, ink blooms, etchings, and organic elements to explore the beautiful, continuous cycles of the natural world. Symbols in the paintings replicate, change, fade, and return through the work creating a subtle tension that examines themes of compliance and resistance, harmony and dissonance, certainty and illusion. Cooley’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Washington, Charlotte, Richmond, and Toronto.