Internal Landscape and Lion Rock by Sally Cole
I confess I find abstract art often the most difficult to respond to. I can be left cold, disappointed, or just baffled. Happily, Sally Cole’s work has the opposite effect: I find it moving and absorbing. She has a rich language of mark-making which is sophisticated, versatile and characterised by very different energetic qualities. Sometimes the marks arc, black and sharp, into the space, sometimes they crumble with charcoal like delicacy, broken by faint touches of sheen like shafts of rain. Sometimes energy crackles from a vertical, or leaps across a void. With fine judgement she adds to the openness of a printed effect with a gesture from brush or pen, or a slice of clear colour. In one landscape a sharp white vertical creates a note of dislocation by putting each side of the image into different planes – there is very little of the static in these spaces.
Her responses to the landscapes of Pembrokeshire and New Zealand are richly textured with layers of marks and swathes of colour in close discourse. The marks scratch, crumble, dust over and underpin the colours so there’s a strong sense of connection with the structure of the land, its different surfaces, and an acute sensibility to mood and light. It’s rooted in the close observation of nature shown in her earlier work, but is so much more expressive of the mobility of experience. There is even the occasional hum of the figurative, pointing to the long poetic history of the association of body with landscape.
Some of the most recent images are more fluid, more austere in colour, expressive of melancholy, dissolution and encountering the unknown. Her use of space in these is uncompromising, so they have that quality of the minimal but animate and organic, which is found in contemporary Japanese ceramics. One image in particular in black and red has an explosive gesture which looks like an attack. This interpretation is supported by the knowledge that Sally is responding to her treatment for cancer, but her work without a doubt does not need context for its validity.