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Timothy Cook


Timothy Cook

In his distinctively clear and striking style, Timothy Cook loves to work with the ‘old designs’, transposing the exuberant culture of his Tiwi tradition into the contemporary art-space. He works at Milikapiti on Melville island, north of Darwin and has been exhibiting his paintings and prints since the late 1990’s. During this time and with other artists from the Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association, he visited the ‘Mountford Barks’ in the Adelaide Museum. This historic collection was instrumental in Cook’s revisioning of the past, creating an artistic response in keeping with both ancient traditions and modern practises. In 2012, after being included as a finalist for many years, Cook won the prestigious NATSI Art Award and since then has gone on to receive much acclaim. Cook’s early career collaboration with professional printmakers who ran workshops on Melville Island, encouraged his eye for bold design. His experimentation with composition fed into larger painting works which always have an engaging clarity. Many of Cook’s painting refer to Kulama, the Tiwi ceremony of the wild yam harvest. Kulama also is a time of initiation. Three days of body painting, singing and dancing, welcome the boys into manhood and gives them their adult name. The whole community joins in and because it is the end of the wet season (March/April), the Tiwi Islands are burgeoning with new life. During this time, a ring appears around the moon (Japarra). This circle often features centrally in Cook’s paintings and reflects the circular dances of ceremony as well as corresponding body painting designs. Cross motifs signify a spirit place of significance, while smaller dots and circles are yams and or stars (japalinga). With crushed charcoal providing dark base areas, vivid natural ochres of red, white and yellow stand out in a vibrant symmetry of dots. While his design is precise, Cook’s painting method is gestural and unhesitatingly, reflecting the power behind an ancient but still living tradition. The Pukumani (funeral) ceremony and the myths of Purukapali, the Tiwi ancestral figure who first brought death into the world, are also central Tiwi themes. The valuing of aesthetic ingenuity and innovation has long been a part of their object making around mourning rituals. The rich artistic legacy of the Tiwi Islands has played a key role in the recognition and ongoing evolving of Aboriginal Art. Timothy Cook’s place in this story is attested to by his inclusion in Australia’s national galleries and increasingly, international collections. Reference: Isaacs, Jennifer, Tiwi: Art, History, Culture, Melbourne University Press, 2012 Rey, Una, MCA Collection Handbook,
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