Interview with Terry Cooke, Artist and Photographer
Images have been provided by Terry Cooke.
“Collins St., 5pm 2020” is a re-imagining of John Brack’s famous “Collins St., 5pm” painting, painted in 1955 and hanging in the NGV.
Retired-staff member of UNE and an alumnus, Terry Cooke, is filling his days with great involvement in the creative community of New England, as an artist and photographer. He has also dedicated lots of invaluable time as a volunteer on a few exciting projects here at UNE, including the Boiler House and it’s STEAMpunk night with Kirsty Abbott, a photography book “University of New England – Images with Altitude”, and collaborating with Tess Cullen, he has photographed Oorala’s Open Day.
We managed to pinch a little of Terry’s time to find out a little about his past and what he has been up top over the past few months!
How did you get into the art world?
I grew up with a mother who is artistic and a father who was a photographer, our household encouraged art and creativity. In fact, my Uncle, John Dixon, created and drew the adventure comic strip “Air Hawk and the Flying Doctors” which was syndicated around Australia and worldwide. In my teens, I admired his work and spent a lot of time trying to draw like him.
You play a big role in the Armidale Arts Scene can you tell us a bit about the past few months?
For me, the COVID-19 lockdown was a time of opportunity, and exploring new things after normal routines were suddenly disrupted. In addition to learning to do video conference calls, to take time-lapse star photographs, and to take macro photographs of many otherwise unnoticed small flowers and insects in my garden, I had time to sit and enjoy drawing.
During this time, I have produced a number of drawings with a pandemic theme, three of which were exhibited (and sold) in the ‘Life in the Time of Lockdown’ exhibition. The drawings are from my sometimes quirky imagination, drawn in pencil, inked in, then scanned and finished in Photoshop.
I was also recently involved with the Armidale Art Gallery Hotcakes exhibition where I donated two drawings to Hotcakes, “Collins St., 5 pm 2020” and “Mother Nature’s Air Freshener” along with a photograph of Mount Duval titled “Valley Mist”. All sold quickly with multiple copies of the drawings being sold. “Collins St., 5 pm 2020” has been extremely popular.
“Mother Nature’s Air Freshener” was imagined on hearing of the clear unpolluted skies in many countries during the lockdown period.
“COVID contained by Ned” was inspired by Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series of paintings.
How would you describe your style?
This is a difficult question for me to answer as I have never set out to develop a particular style though people have said to me that they recognise my style. I might leave it to the viewer of my work to decide what my style is. =)
What will we usually find you creating?
I find my inspiration from the world around me together with an active imagination. From what I have been told I tend to see things many other people don’t. I love a recreating quiet, moody landscape with a sense of stillness – this is hard to beat. On the other hand, a drama or musical production with great costuming, lighting, acting, and directing makes for exciting photography.
Photo by Terry Cooke, Little Llangothlin Lagoon, Llangothlin, North of Guyra
Photo by Terry Cooke
What messages do you like to share with your art?
My upcoming exhibition of environmental drawings illustrates my frustrations with how humanity is destroying the natural environment of our planet. With my photography, I enjoy “making a silk purse from a sow’s ear” i.e. make the ordinary and everyday interesting
As a side note to this, The New England High Country books that I have produced have all been printed using funds raised through local crowdfunding with the photography and design done by me at no cost to the project. The books have then been made available to a community non-profit organisation to earn income as the wholesaler to the booksellers. My photography is also available for use by non-profit organisations under a Creative Commons Licence – Attribution, Non-Commercial. Non-profit includes public education, galleries, conservatoriums, local government, etc.
Are you working on any special projects that we should keep our eyes peeled for?
I am currently working on a fair bit!
My upcoming exhibitions “7 Billion Blind Mice” and “Seasons” at the moment, which both open at the Armidale Art Gallery in The Mall on 2 October, which will run for the entire month. My “Seasons” exhibition is focused on local landscape photography it will support the launch of a new crowdfunded book, that is currently with the printers! Some of the drawings in the “7 Billion Blind Mice” exhibition are not what people will choose to hang on their lounge room walls however they will hopefully deliver a strong message to the viewer.
In conjunction with my exhibitions, there will be “Eclectic” – an exhibition of photography by local photographers.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Top of the list is my Uncle, John Dixon, the creator, writer, and illustrator of the “Air Hawk and The Flying Doctors” comic strip. His creativity and drawing skill impressed me as a teenager and still do.
What is one message you would give to any aspiring creatives?
Develop your own style while keeping an eye on what appeals to your audience.
Do you have any other hobbies or activities, that influence you creatively or get you inspired?
I find walking great for letting my mind wander and opening it up to new ideas and imaginings. At the same time walking with a camera at different times, in different places, and in different types of weather creates serendipitous photographic opportunities.
I enjoy growing vegetables, creating bush gardens, reading science fiction, walking, and bike riding. Past interests include orienteering, map making, logo design, and running.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about being a part of the New England community?
On retirement, having the time to contribute to the New England Community.
Thank you so much for your time, Terry! We’re looking forward to your future artistic ventures and will keep up to date with your work on and Facebook. You can view Terry’s photography online and he has also published several books three of which are still available from outlets around Armidale. Or if you’re visiting Faulkner Street Medical Practice, The Country Comfort Motel, and the Armidale Regional Council you may just see his works on the walls!