Michael Cook - Civilised #1, 2012, photo credits mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au

Michael Cook

Australia 1968



Michael Cook
Michael Cook
March 16, 2016

When personal history gets involved in one’s artwork, every piece of it becomes a story to tell. Michael Cook is strongly influenced by his Aboriginal heritage of the Bidjara people of the southwest Queensland, who he is originated from. His photographs discuss the racial and social roles, challenging the viewer to do not offer judgment. Discriminatory nature of society is in a focus of his series of photographs. Cook considers himself as a part of multicultural Australian society, and his work is the self-portrait.

Michael Cook - Stickman #6, 2011, copyrights thisisnofantasy.com
Michael Cook – Stickman #6, 2011, copyrights thisisnofantasy.com

The Homage to Origins

He was adopted as a baby, from a non-Indigenous family, but he was raised to be proud of his origins. He was never in the direct connection with his ancestry, so it was the reason to learn more about it. Cook worked for the 25 years as a commercial photographer, and his experience and technical capability with the camera and editing tools helped him with digital layering which gives his works a special depth. Every of his photographic series has its own story behind and serves as a mean to explore his heritage. Modern Dreaming is a phrase hidden behind the bodies of work in series Majority Rule (2014). With that words Cook wanted to describe the ideology and effects still suffered by Australian Indigenous people. Black and white images are actually a duplication of the same man. His images operate in an ethereal dream world, a timeless place which connects the colonial and contemporary.

Michael Cook - Majority rule, 2014, photo credits biennaleofsydney.com.au
Michael Cook – Majority rule, 2014, photo credits biennaleofsydney.com.au

From Australia to Europe

In 2016, Cook will have a solo exhibition at the global art fair, Art Basel Hong Kong. As one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary Indigenous artists, Cook’s work has been acquired by many institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Museum of Australia and Parliament House, Canberra. He was exhibiting at Saltwater Country at AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art, The Netherlands, Personal Structures at Palazzo Mora, Venice during the 56th Venice Biennale, so as in the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, 2014. Twice a time he was named a Winner of the Deadly Awards – Visual Artist of the Year, in 2008 and 2011. He has been a selected finalist in awards including the Olive Cotton Award 2013 and he has received People’s Choice Award at the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards 2011, Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, 2012, and Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Aboriginal people play the main role in Cook’s work

Michael Cook - Broken Dreams #3, 2010, photo via artrabbit.com
Michael Cook – Broken Dreams #3, 2010, photo via artrabbit.com

Everybody is Equal

In Cook’s work, Aboriginal people play the main role. They live in his dream world where is no right or wrong or black or white, answering the question what if the British took a more understanding approach to native people, their culture and language? His figures are at the same time invaders and the colonized. He started the discussion of colonization with the goal to get close Australian people and to make aboriginal voice ever-present. That’s why he believes that he belongs to the wider community – humanity.

Michael Cook is represented by The Cat Street Gallery.

Michael Cook lives and works in Brisbane, Australia

Fitured image: image via mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au
All images used for illustrative purpose only

YearExibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015 Object THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery + projects, Melbournesolo
2015Undiscovered Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney solo
2015Through My Eyes Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, NSW solo
2015 Through My Eyes Kick Artssolo
2015 Cairns Civilised Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kongsolo
2015 Personal Structures: Crossing Borders Palazzo Mora Venicegroup
2015 Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation British Museum, London group
2015 Salt Water Country AAMU Museum for Contemporary Aboriginal Art ,Utrecht group
2015 Lifelines Musee De La Civilisation, Quebec group
2015 Indigenous Art: Moving Backwards Into the Future National Gallery of Victoria group
2015 Storm in a Teacup Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery group
2015 Resistance Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth group
2015The Encounters Project National Museum of Australia group
2015Salt Water Country Manly Art Museum, Sydney group
2015Sydney Contemporary THIS IS NO FANTASY + Dianne Tanzer Gallery, Sydney group
2015Photo LA Queensland Centre for Photography, Los Angeles group
2015Photo ContemporaryLos Angelesgroup
2014Through My Eyes Museum of Australian Democracy, Canberra ACT solo
2014Australian Landscapes La Trobe University, Melbourne solo
2014You Imagine What You Desire 19th Biennale of Sydneygroup
2014Mother and Child McMaster Museum of Artgroup
2014New Passports New Photography Art Gallery of Western Australia group
2014Episodes: Australia Photography Now 13th Dong Gang International Photo Festival South Korea group
2014Unknown Fukyama Museum of Art, Japangroup
2014 Kyota Hanga: International Print Exhibition Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Japan group
2014My Country: Contemporary Art from Black AustraliaAucklandgroup
2014 East Coast Encounter Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney NSW group
2014 Private Assembly: A Contemporary Collection Tweed Regional Gallery, NSW group
2014Saltwater Country Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Surfers Paradise Qld group
2013Civilised dianne tanzer gallery + projects, Melbourne solo
2013Hear no… See no… Speak no… Queensland Centre for Photography at Depot Gallery, Sydney solo
2013Debil Debil Anna Schwartz Gallery, Sydney group
2013My Country Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane group
2013 Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award Gold Coast City Art Gallery, QLD group
2013UnknownThe 22nd International Los Angeles Photographic Art Expositiongroup
2012 Stickman dianne tanzer gallery + projects, Melbourne solo
2012Through My Eyes La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo solo
2012 Broken Dreams October Gallery, London solo
2012The Mission dianne tanzer gallery + projects, Melbournesolo
2012 Broken Dreams October Gallery, London solo
2012The Mission Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects, Melbournesolo
2012The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art – APT7 Queensland Art Gallery group
2012UnDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial National Gallery of Australia, Canberra group
201229th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Straight Islander Art Award Museum & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory Darwin group
2012 O’Mission Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, Melbourne group
2012Where the Art Leads – CIAF Cairns Regional Gallery Cairns group
2012My Country University of Western Sydney Art Gallery, NSW group
2011Uninhabited Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbanesolo
2011Face Up: A look at portraits from the collection Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Surfers Paradisegroup
2010 Through My Eyes Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbanesolo