Who I Am
"My passion to create art was partly fuelled by a culmination of deep felt energies in relation to historic and present events around systemic racism, inequality and ultimately, my personal experiences. From a reflective and emotive perspective, I believe this has contributed to, Who I Am" JA Cooke.
Born in Hackney, London in 1962, Jacqui Cooke finished school at 16 to pursue a career in finance. After many years in various roles and while supporting her partner with his printing company, she discovered her skills were in creative services. Cooke, went on to formalise her skills, graduating with first class honours.
Cooke, a Creative Director graduated from the University of the Arts (Digital Media Production) and attended the Art Academy London, to develop oil painting techniques. The goal was to create artistic pieces to provide her children with visual representations of individuals of strength and character that looked like them and who could inspire, and they in turn aspire to behest the same achievements. It was believed, this was missing from their education along with mainstream media channels providing stereotypical misleading viewpoints
She finally started her visual arts journey in 2014, after longing for many years to embark on this route having been steered along a different pathway towards medicine, as a teenager. The challenge was portraiture – and who does not like a challenge? So, she jumped straight in. The subjects in her portraits have in some form stirred an emotion within her, as a result of their commitment, sacrifice or self-less acts they have endured for the betterment of their community and individuals of African descent – on reflection many of the experiences and situations are still pertinent today!
The themes aim to create visual depth in each subject. In doing so, trying to represent their dignity in the face of adversity and their continued drive for change. Her style is figurative realism and expressionism. Working in oil paints over weeks or months to create portraits of historical figures, everyday experiences and also images of personal interest.
“I am a woman of Jamaican parentage born in Britain and similarly interested in the social movements and lives of Black and Ethnic communities across the globe. Many of my paintings portray people of African descent.”
Cooke's first exhibition 'Who I Am' was a collaborative effort with the London Borough of Newham, in celebration of 70 years since the arrival of the Windrush Generation. Cooke, was invited to exhibit a number of paintings based on portraiture of black male and female activists – a visual arts exhibition. Following this, there have been a number of additional exhibitions including the Inaugural C'Art exhibition which was held in Jamaica, January 2020.