Visual Vernacular: Artist Lucinda Cobley
Lucinda Cobley, “Matrix” (detail)
Offering works capturing light and shadow that often rival those seen directly in nature, artist Lucinda Cobley harnesses the beautiful power of both of these objects and places them in luminous pieces. Originally from Birmingham, England she has lived in Houston since 1998. Working in ceramics, glass, paintings, printmaking and beyond, Cobley is able to shift the weight of color into layers of light. Most recently, she took the matter of work and expanded it to a grand scale at the University of Houston Downtown with an installation entitled Matrix. This piece was constructed from acrylic, ink and graphite on layers of plastic drafting film, vellum, mulberry paper, nylon, mirror film, LED lights and wood.
The installation’s focus was a deep blue horizon line that resembled that of a large body of water. Expanding 50 feet as it bisected the architectural space between the walls of the gallery space, translucent surfaces revealed the masses of color and reflections of light. In her smaller works with glass, these same reflections of light is sublimely displayed with her savvy use of color as the shadows and pigment change throughout the day, depending on the level of sunlight. Coming up in the near future, she will be traveling to Tokyo to display her innovative work. Lucinda was kind enough to answer some questions about her early discovery days with art and how she has grown to know her materials in the process.
Free Press Houston: What kind of artistic experiences did you have as a child and growing up?
Lucinda Cobley: My parents were always encouraging me. They gave me this wonderful feeling of certainty. I remember being as young as 5 years old and both of them being really excited by an assemblage I made after I got home from school one day. With great curiosity they watched me gather various items together from the kitchen such as tin foil, a piece of cardboard from a cereal box and a near empty spool of thread from my mom’s sewing box. I attached everything together and the spool became a plinth supporting a silver colored fish made from the card and foil. “Oh look you’ve made a sculpture, you are an artist!” my mom declared. I then turned to my dad for reassurance and he laughed and agreed, “Yes, you are!”
Lucinda Cobley, “Matrix”
FPH: How did you develop your art in your teen years and what were your collegiate years like?
Cobley: During my teens, I kept drawing. I really wanted to know how to draw well. I was inspired by the work of David Hockney. He was frequently featured in magazines, such as newspaper weekend color supplements, so I became aware of his color pencil drawings quite early on. My sister advised me I should apply to art school, so I began to think quite seriously about art and design as a career. I really loved fashion at the time and dreamed of being a fashion designer like Mary Quant or Zandra Rhodes. Although, when I did attend art school, my interest shifted towards painting and ceramics. Delving into magazines in the college library, I found I liked the simplicity and beauty of pottery by Lucie Rie and in contrast the expressively painted slab-built ceramic work of Alison Britton. During my college years, I began to realize the potential of combining sculptural form and painting, so I applied for a multi-disciplinary design course where I could access the ceramics, glass and surface pattern design departments.
FPH: What is it like working with glass? What is the process like to bring life and color into your pieces?
Cobley: Glass is a challenging material. I have worked with it hot and cold. Hot meaning glass blowing and kiln work, and cold without involving any heating processes. I learned how to cast glass in molds and laminate flat pieces of glass together with painted enamels. I liked how the material would soften and transform when heated and I would repeatedly fire enamels onto the surface of layered shapes that became increasingly abstract in form and complex in coloration. However, in time I returned back to painting, drawing and collage with paper. It felt quite freeing not to work with glass and be tied to equipment. I started working with glass again years later, only using it cold.
Lucinda Cobley, “Matrix” (detail)
FPH: Tell me about your recent installation work. What else is coming up for you in the near future?
Cobley: Earlier this year I was invited by Mark Cervenka, Gallery Director at the University of Houston Downtown, to create a site-specific floor-based installation. In Matrix, I combined painting, sculpture and printmaking for my largest scale work to date. It was based on a grid structure made from 2-by-4 timbers to form a tilted wave-like form, 50 feet in length. It dissected the gallery space at a determined angle. The grid expanse was covered in a skin of translucent drafting film painted in glazes of blue pigment. Beneath, the painted layers were overlapping collaged elements and LED rope lights that illuminated the grid structure. In my statement I wrote:
“Inspired by the symbology of nautical charts ‘matrix’ embodies elements or markers such as broken lines or dashes to signify plotted movements or trajectories through space. Sometimes combined lines may be straight, curved, solid, dashed or dotted. Different rhythms occur and lines appear entangled, while others become blocked or subverted. Broken markers may signal hidden dangers while other lines or blocks of color may indicate zones for safe and unhindered passage. In this three-dimensional version of a navigational chart the content is personal. No map legend is provided, there are no coordinates or any indication of location given, rather it is a space created for individual exploration, contemplation or projection of ideas by the viewer.”
FPH: How has your time here and abroad shaped your work and your artistic statement?
Cobley: I think relocating from London to Houston actually gave me focus as an artist. It is possible to re-invent, to change direction, and create a new purpose when you move. Yet the feeling of separation from everything that existed before and making a new life here seemed a little difficult at first, but eventually it gave rise to the idea of creating paintings on multiple levels. Past and present may be combined to exist simultaneously.