Dimensions: 215 x 184.5cm
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Acquired from the artist in 2001 by the Model
Born in England and raised in Bermuda and the USA, Barrie Cooke has been based in Ireland since the mid 1950s. After periods living in Wicklow and on the Burren, Cooke settled in the town land of Ballinlig, Co. Sligo. A keen fisherman and naturalist, he has often painted the landscape around his home including Knocknarea, the mountain that guards the southern approach to Sligo town. A landmark that also features in Jack B. Yeats’ work, Knocknarea has associations with Queen Medb of Connaught, whose actions provoked the Tain Bo Cuailnge’ the Cattle raid of Cooley. Miosgan Meabha, the large cairn that crowns the summit of the mountain, is fabled to contain Medb’s body, dressed for battle and ready to face the armies of Ulster (1).
Unlike many Irish artists, Cooke is not preoccupied by national identity or cultural readings of the landscape. Instead, he focuses on the physical facts of nature and our relationships to it. Knocknarea, with its mythical associations, therefore seems to be an unusual choice of subject matter within his oeuvre. However, the physical dominance of the mountain on the landscape of Sligo makes it an apt subject for an artist preoccupied by his environment.
1. Aidan Dunne, ‘Barry (sic) Cooke, Barrie Cooke: a retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Royal Hibernian Academy and The Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo, 2003, p.20.
Written by Riann Coulter