Jonathan Delafield Cook

Jonathan Delafield Cook (born 1965, London) trained as an architectural draughtsman in Japan, winning many awards for his detailed drawings. He returned to England to study at the Royal College of Art, where he received the Darwin Scholarship.


The natural world is Jonathan Delafield Cook's inspiration and his works reflect the complex beauty of the world that surrounds us, from animate to inanimate elements. His exquisite charcoal drawings, often life size, of a diversity of subjects - sheep, bulls, flowers, nests, whales, minerals, barnacles - have a remarkable attention to detail. Much of his time is spent in research collections of museums, and he has a strong interest in the areas where art and science overlap. Direct references to a long tradition of rigour and close observation in classification and taxonomic illustration are made, but in the end Cook is engaged in creating works of art for their graphic, abstract or tonal potential.


'When looking at any of Jonathan Delafield Cook's charcoal drawings the eye at first seizes and consumes the image purely as a kind of specimen, not yet seduced by its surface textures. Whether he is presenting inanimate forms (such as nests of shells), or living creature (like birds, cattle, or marine mammals), each item is shown as an isolated type against a white background, in a way that simultaneously evokes both the exacting empiricism of the laboratory while also sugesting the artificial neutrality of the photographic studio. Delafield Cook's things are most often seen in profile, as if preserved in a kind of airless formaldehyde. They line up in the mind's eye like the bottled creatures that used to adorn the shelves  of schoolrooms the world over. Even individually, the drawings imply a desire to classify the particularities of their subjects, while also hinting at a larger taxonomical purpose. And it is precisely the individuality of each thing that invites us to join the artist in detecting what makes them so remarkable. Each form is recreated with such meticulous attention to detail that we understand implicilty that these images sit on the threshold of scientific enquiry. And yet ultimately every one of them is based on subjective impressions, resulting from repeated observation and acquired knowledge, rather than being a transcription of a single photographic moment'. (Ian Warrell)