Cooke has worked with both the macro and micro elements of the land throughout her 37 year artistic career.
Ngahere is simply translated as forest. This exhibition aims to celebrate the life and beauty of the indigenous forests of Aotearoa whilst addressing concepts of necessary protection, sustainability and regeneration. Depicting primarily Beech and Kauri, Cooke has deliberately chosen a large scale format to give the viewer the feeling of being towered over by the forest giants. In addition a deliberate attempt has been made to create visual complexity within images to emulate the typical busyness seen between branches and twigs.
Collagraph is the primary technique used in this exhibition. Collagraph is a technique that enables an artist to make large images as the materials are relatively cheap. Made from the simple materials of cardboard, glue, polyurethane and 2 dimensional textures, with multiple plates layered over the top of each other, a sophistication of tone, mark making, depth and colour is achieved
Cooke’s career spans 37 years working primarily in the mediums of etching, lithography, collagraph and painting. Cooke’s work has dealt with landscape as a subject exploring concepts of the monument, the power of nature, care of the earth, sustainability and regeneration. Cooke’s formative influences were the works of Henry Moore, Colin McCahon and Georgia O’Keefe. In 1984 Cooke and fellow printmaking student Marian Maguire, spent a week at Ilam School of Fine Arts acting as trainee Master Printers for renowned New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere. Hotere became a strong influence, mentor and long-time friend.
In 1990 Cooke moved from Christchurch to Whanganui to take up the position of the Sarjeant Gallery’s, Tylee Cottage Artist in Residence for a year. During which she met her future husband, Bryce Smith, and decided to make Whanganui her home. Cooke has had the privilege of actively being part of the growth of Whanganui’s creative community over the past 30 years. Her studio is part of a creative cluster in an historic brick building in central Whanganui.
Highlights of her career have been exhibiting the large scale Panorama – A Print based on the Landscape of Lake Ohau at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in 1987, being commissioned for the Port Hills Mural for the Park Royal Hotel in Christchurch in 1988, travelling and drawing in Antarctica in 2006 and receiving an 12 month long award from the Pollack Krasner Foundation based in New York, USA in 2015.