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View from Andrew Lambirth, May 2006 When Thomas Hardy wrote: ‘Nature is played out as a Beauty, but not as a Mystery’, he was voicing an authentic artistic response to the general longing to know more about the natural world which the study and pursuit of science had engendered. He went on: ‘I don’t want to see the original realities – as optical effects, that is. I want to see the deeper reality underlying the scenic, the expression of what are sometimes called abstract imaginings.’ Daisy Cook makes paintings which deal with these abstract imaginings. She has also never been afraid to engage with beauty, though she is not drawn to its more obvious manifestations. Her latest paintings bear ample witness to this. The meeting point of land, sea and sky has long been a focus for her art. Cook makes paintings which take landscape as their subject without being explicitly topographical or descriptive. Through a suggestion of silvery clouds and mudflat she evokes a littoral: not a specific view or portrait of a place, but a larger statement about this type of country as a habitat for the spirit, a place where the imagination may soar. Photographs are used as reference, but the key energy of these paintings resides in Cook’s singular ability to recognize and identify the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her particular quality of recognition breathes through these images, animating them. Intuition and chance play their part, but they would be inert without the guiding principle of the artist’s vision. The pattern and rhythm of Cook’s life has changed radically with the birth of her daughter, and instead of spending most days in her studio she is now limited to two or three much more intense sessions per week. This has focused and polarized her studio activity, giving it a different edge and set of priorities. At the same time the experience of motherhood (‘the most tender thing I’ve ever felt’) has undoubtedly fed into her work.
ELLEN MILLARD 22 AUGUST 2016 Ahead of the launch of its debut collaborative collection, Jaeger’s creative director Sheila McKain-Waid and London painter Daisy Cook discuss why fashion and art go hand in hand. “Do you ever feel there’s a sort of collective consciousness about design sometimes?” Sheila McKain-Waid ponders. “It’s a bit weird to say, but I do think that there is a sensibility about these things, whether it’s colour or texture.” It would certainly explain why so many designers tend to pick up on the same trends each season, but for the Jaeger creative director, a synergy exists beyond the world of fashion – one that’s present in literature, cinema and art, too. “I think there’s a lot of cross-fertilisation across all of the arts,” artist Daisy Cook chips in. “I think there always has been.” We are sat in the meeting room of Jaeger’s HQ in White City, where the British brand is preparing to launch its latest collaborative collection, which features one of Cook’s paintings. It’s for this reason that the topic of synergy comes up; Jaeger was looking for an environmental artwork and, as if by magic, Cook had just the ticket. “One of our designers had seen a painting by Daisy on a blog and brought it to my attention,” McKain-Waid explains. “At the beginning of A/W16 we were looking a lot at the work of the Dia Art Foundation in Beacon, New York, and all the environmental artists, such as Richard Serra and John Chamberlain. Then we found Daisy’s work, which fused so nicely into a very different look and feel.” The work in question is an assortment of landscape oil paintings in abstract designs, with angular shapes and graphic elements, often painted in earthy hues with slices of brighter shades cutting through. It was this juxtaposition of topography and linear design that drew the Jaeger team to Cook’s art, and they finally settled on her Landscape, Yellow Triangle painting as the star of the collaboration. “I think it was those slices of orangey, yellowy mustard colour,” says McKain-Waid. “It’s very much like the feeling of London in the winter sometimes, how these colours just cut across the grey. We just kept coming back to it and I think if you come back to something then you’ve hit the right thing.” “I love London. I couldn’t live anywhere else. I like the interplay of how the landscape has been shaped by man as well as the environment, so architecture, shape and form come into my work quite a bit” For Cook, the painting was a chance to venture away from the traditional land, sea and sky formulas with which she often works, instead bringing in architectural elements that were inspired by the buildings in London’s Blackfriars. “My paintings always start out quite nebulous – with a spillage of paint – and then they get built up. It just kind of emerged, really,” she shrugs. “I grew up on Hampstead Heath and moved to Sussex when I was 10, so I’ve always had a sort of foray into nature, but I love London. I couldn’t live anywhere else. I like the interplay of how the landscape has been shaped by man as well as the environment, so architecture, shape and form come into my work quite a bit.” Landscape, Yellow Triangle is a moody, almost ombre design with flashes of yellow peeking through, which has been printed onto an oversized cashmere coat, a sweater, cropped trousers, a pleated dress and a silk scarf. The range is a blend of the classic, perennial styles for which Jaeger is so well known, with a statement print that one might not immediately associate with the brand. It’s all part of Jaeger’s move towards modernity, which McKain-Waid has been spearheading since her appointment as creative director in 2013. “I think there’s a cleaner simplicity that’s existed in the line for the past couple of seasons,” she tells me. “We’ve made a conscious effort to ensure the range is a lot more contemporary. I believe Daisy’s work in particular has a really beautiful blend. There’s something almost classic about a landscape painting, but there’s a very modern element to it too and that’s what we’re doing at Jaeger as well. It’s the fusion of those two things that makes it feel interesting.” Along with the Daisy Cook partnership, A/W16 will see the launch of Jaeger’s second Laboratory capsule collection – a biannual line of investment styles that harbour the fashion house’s core principles: innovation, experimentation and expression. This second volume will comprise 30 pieces, with striking silhouettes and graphic prints that very much intertwine with the Daisy Cook capsule collection. The new range has a focus on architecture and sculpture, and is a fusion of the classic and contemporary. “One day when I was passing the British Museum I was really struck by the giant columns at the front,” explains McKain-Waid. “I had recently seen an old Jaeger shoot from the late sixties that was shot at the museum; it almost felt like Courrèges or something: the clothes were so modern and angular, yet the models were slouched against the marble in the interior – it was such a great shoot. I loved the clash of modernity and antiquity. I took the team there and we looked at the famous ceiling and the architecture and geometry, but then, when we walked outside, there was a protest coming down the street. I thought, ‘maybe that’s what’s interesting here’; you have this very classical place and then you’ve got street culture two seconds away.” And so the second volume became very much a merger of the two, with prints based on the geometry of the museum adorned onto traditional silhouettes and accented with urban references such as drawstring cords, pull ties and bonding fabrics. “The fashion industry has been completely transformed. When I first started there were very few shows; now there are hundreds every single season” Of the fashion brands she admires, McKain-Waid sites Vetements, Balenciaga, Raf Simons and Jil Sander among her favourites. These four powerhouses emulate Jaeger’s design aesthetic: on the one hand, urban, sporty and a force to be reckoned with; and on the other classic, with clean silhouettes, simple cuts and a seat at the fashion heavyweight table – proving that a synergy certainly exists in sartorial circles, at least. For the creative director, this is the beauty of the world she works in. “The fashion industry has been completely transformed. When I first started there were very few shows; now there are hundreds every single season. It’s a very different beast, but there are positives and negatives to that. As much as it’s become a huge industry, it has also become less structured. There used to be couture and ready-to-wear, but now there’s a blend. People are taking from all different elements and I think that’s what’s really exciting. There are so many collaborations and there are so many people being inspired by so many different things,” says McKain-Waid. Case in point: Cook’s creations, which fit seamlessly into Jaeger’s repertoire. As we wrap up the interview, the pair hint at a future partnership, but remain tight-lipped about what’s to come. For now, we will have to admire the painter’s work on our coats and scarves, or in more detail at her upcoming shows at Beaux Arts London, Jenna Burlingham Fine Art and the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair. Back at Jaeger HQ, the team is working a year ahead on A/W17. There’s no rest for the fashion house, which has been one step ahead for more than a century. What’s the secret to its success? “I think we have an amazing heritage and there are a lot of other brands that can’t claim the same,” McKain-Waid says, matter-of-factly. “We have the right to own the space because we have 130-plus years of history, and not many brands can say that. That’s something to be very proud of.” You can’t argue with that.