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WEB DARLENE COLE (7).jpg

Darlene Cole


Darlene ColeWORDS by NATALIE ZIMMERMAN

PHOTOGRAPHS by CASSANDRA RACACHEIRO

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Darlene Cole


Darlene ColeWORDS by NATALIE ZIMMERMAN

PHOTOGRAPHS by CASSANDRA RACACHEIRO

 
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In Toronto-based painter Darlene Cole’s work, the quiet hum of her workspace and the psychological elements imbued in her haunting paintings exist in constant conversation. There’s a sense of romanticism and mystery in the finished paintings borne of Cole’s brushstrokes.

Perhaps this quality is shaped by the fact that Cole’s cottage sits in the Canadian countryside and overlooks a lake. (She refers to it as her ‘artist’s retreat.’) Built in 1909, the space adds a museum-like feel to Cole’s work. “Recently,” she says, “I have found that I will only paint under natural light. I paint in high concentration and rarely sit down in the studio.”

Cole often listens to music as she works, taking in everything from ‘80s alternative to acoustic folk, depending on the feeling she seeks to capture on any given day. Her palette sits under a window between her painting wall and a large mirror. “As I paint in solitude, I like to see the interior of the space I'm working in with the reflection of the painting I'm working on—the sense of movement, how our gaze rests and shifts, feeds my work. Painting to me (physically) has a cinematic feel to it. I often think of Luca Guadagnino's film, I Am Love … the camera's timing, pauses, and entrances to rooms. That contemporary twist to timing and dark beauty that comes out of it very much resonates with me.”

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The choreography of an art installation and how we respond to it physically and emotionally is a whole-body experience.

For inspiration, Cole often draws on the artistic interplay between film, music, fashion, and painting. She specifically points to “the intricacies of a piece of fabric—zooming in on it to really see and feel what it is made of and how it is made. Somehow layering those nuggets, sparks, and sensualities merge to unravel emotion for me,” Cole explains. This passion for textiles carries over into her everyday life, as she reveals with a laugh that she loves to sleep in fine linens in a space pared down to its barest essentials. There's a similar elemental purity that she craves in her work, “like listening to an old recording and hearing the gritty cracks and pops ... all with the depth of a timeless voice playing through the air.”

Whether she’s attending art openings or fundraisers, volunteering, or visiting colleges and universities, Cole stays active and visible within the larger Canadian art community. While she lives in a small town 45 minutes outside of Toronto, Cole’s work is represented in Canada’s major metropolitan cities (such as Toronto, which houses her current exhibit at Bau-Xi Gallery). Her work can also be found in Vancouver and at Montreal’s Galerie de Bellefeuille. Cole has exhibited in the United States (Seattle, New York, California) and her work is collected worldwide. In June of this year, her work was honored at the Art Gallery of Ontario for Canada’s 150th birthday.

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From Cole’s perspective, there is a less cohesive narrative in art made today, created amidst a culture that seems to spin at an increasingly faster pace. Yet within the spiral, magical collaborations are established across the globe. And while many contemporary artists engage with and are influenced by technology and the internet in their practices, Cole retains the hope that art-lovers will continue to make time to experience art in the flesh. She explains, “The human gesture has always been pivotal to my work. The choreography of an art installation and how we respond to it physically and emotionally is a whole-body experience. I want the viewer to engage intimately with my small paintings and to feel like they are stepping into the larger paintings.” 

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As far as the current questions she’s raising in her own work, Cole says that it “has woven its way into a more close-up romance with the human body and our intimate spaces. I am now immersed in the [idea of the] body and its duality of fragility and strength ... [its] intimate and public [nature].” She adds, “It has always intrigued me that in the early 1900s, families would bring their dining room furniture out to the garden to photograph their babies. It was the natural light that they needed. It is the displacement of the normality of the interior furniture in the wildness of the outdoors that brings a certain re-juxtaposition to everyday life that I also see in my work—something private about the body [that’s] brought into the wild.” ★