Artist Hannah Cook
Cayman Islands Artist, Hannah Cook.
Words by Alisa Bowen and Kyle Fulton.
Dreaming of the Blues, (2004), acrylic on canvas.
"What dreams..." she muses, roused by the rising Caribbean sun, then smiles and serenely slips into a daydream. Cayman artist Hannah Cook’s life, like her art, is dominated by dreams: her constant companions, they punctuate her sleep and mark her days. Intrinsically inspired by the moody Caribbean Sea, soothing tradewinds, vivacious people and technicolour flora and fauna that surround her, Cook is a sensory artist whose art reveals itself in visions that she effortlessly translates from reverie to reality. The brilliant colours and flowing textures of her tropical works create pulsing vignettes of a world that time forgot. Almost palpable, they spark with life, engaging the senses – a window into another world.
Midday Sun, (2002), acrylic on canvas.
Cook’s artistic soul manifested at an early age. As a precocious child growing up in Derbyshire, England, she was frequently admonished by her schoolteachers as a daydreamer. Fortunately, her father understood the gift inherent in her head-in-the-clouds approach to life and handed her a box of watercolours. Naturally gifted, she effortlessly revisited her fantastical worlds on paper and, at the ripe age of twelve, her woolgathering manifested into a quick succession of art scholarships for study and advancement.
Artistically inquisitive, she explored different creative avenues including classical Cecchetti ballet under the tutelage of Eve Leveaux, walking the boards to take a small bite out of theatre and studying fashion design at University. Despite a finger in many pies, Cook remained uninspired and sought change. Serendipity intervened in 2000 when she auspiciously accepted a job in the Caribbean.
Commissioned residential mural of Dinotopia artwork by James Gurney, (2010).
Entranced, she unexpectedly found her dormant dreams reawakened. Weaving them into a new reality, she swiftly planted roots and made Grand Cayman home. The rugged beauty and ‘soon come’ island pace lulled her mind into a receptive artistic state. After years not painting, she found herself enamoured with the sun-lit hues of the landscape: the brilliant greens of sea grape trees, the pastel gingerbread cottages, the rich tones of the roosters’ feathers and leathered blues of iguanas – never again would she want for inspiration.
Cayman Rooster, (2011), acrylic on canvas.
Like all true artists, Cook’s creative repertoire has evolved through a bevy of mediums to include mind-bending trompe l’oeil, intricate hand-cut fretwork, embellished giclee, tiled mosaics, hand-painted bespoke furniture and imaginative murals. Whatever her client desires, she brings to life.
John's Lizard, (2010), acrylic on pressed bamboo matting.
Painting in bold, luminous colours, Cook captures movement, texturing her acrylic paints onto traditional canvas and wood. Easily bored and eager for fresh challenges, Cook recently took to painting on pressed bamboo matting, extending the image to encompass the frame, as seen in John’s Lizard. “The fact that it is a plant itself increases the organic nature of the art. I thought it would add another dimension to continue the composition. I feel it adds to the bold designs and their rustic Caribbean charm,” she explains.
Nearly White Flowers, (2010), acrylic on canvas.
Professing a “love affair with Caribbean foliage,” Cook’s series of blossom and bud includes the sensuous Flowers. Captured in dappled sunlight, a close up of mellow oleander dances with movement, its delicate petals yielding to the breeze. Not surprising, Cook reveals, “I need my paintings to have movement, colour, to sing with the piece.”
Sweeper's 1, (2010), acrylic on canvas.
In much the same vein, diving in Cayman’s bountiful waters inspired Sweepers 1, her expansive series that teems with life. Moving in unison, Silversides illuminate the canvas with mesmerising flashes of silver, catching the light as they ascend. Studying the Masters, Hannah continues to self-tutor. Indeed echoes of Vermeer’s masterwork Girl with a Pearl Earring resound in Cook’s melancholy portrait of a Caribbean woman in Dreaming of the Blues. Aside from the obvious parallel of three-quarter pose and headwrapped turban, both paintings capture the female subject in a pensive moment of calm. Intimate and evocative, the viewer is drawn by the intriguing stillness of her gaze.
Living the dream, Cook translates her Caribbean world into tangible form – each piece encapsulating her tropical paradise in a brilliant snapshot of time and place. Regardless of medium, from expressive painting to narrative mural or illusory trompe l’oeil, it is clear that Cook weaves talent and dreams to reveal the beguiling splendour of the region.
To view more of Hannah’s work, visit: www.hannahcook.com
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