Doug Cocker's wall-mounted sculpture Diaspora (1995) achieves a magical sense of spatial freedom which is made all the more poignant by comparison with the drawings for the same work, contained as they are by their frames. The Plural (2008/9), a recently commissioned work for a London office building, is similarly wall-based, albeit the relationship is different. This work comprises seventy five individual pieces, and each piece is anchored to its own small shelf, with a sub-text of cast shadows creating an alternative dynamic. In each of these works, the wall plays a key role. In the first, it is akin to a dance floor, with its implicit invitation. In the second, the wall is essentially a support: it is static, fixed, secure.
What, then, are we to make of Geography(2008-2009), Cocker's latest work in his series of wall-mounted sculptures? Are these pieces really drawings in 3D? Or are they paintings freed from familiar constraints? Have we seen anything like them before? Well yes, maybe â€¦â€¦ In this respect, it is useful to look back to the publication Leaving Jericho which accompanied Cocker's exhibition (in partnership with Arthur Watson) at the John David Mooney Foundation in Chicago in 2003. Reproduced on pages 24 and 25 is a group of sixteen photographic images recorded in County Mayo and Malta, and titled â€˜Research Imagery' for the Mayo Suite and the Valletta Suite ( 2001/2002). The images are carefully selected details of built environments - sections of wall, a door, the side of a container perhaps, a ventilation grill, a suite of hinges: all inspirations familiar in their different ways to a Mark Boyle or a Philip Reeves. Although these fragments of everyday urban reality are no more than documentation, they do offer us a platform from which to view Geography.
Cocker may have returned to a more traditional understanding of the wall and its role vis-Ã -vis art, or he may be usurping territory normally the preserve of painting and drawing. Geography is full of allusion. So if we find a hint of Philip Guston here, or a flashback to Nouns of Europe(2006) there, across this richly vibrant work, we acknowledge that nothing is ever wasted in his studio, and his vocabulary of form - like any language - is richer for its dissonances. There is no questioning the magisterial way in which he handles his materials, be they chestnut, beech, ash, plywood, oak, pine, elm, yew, damson or chipboard with melamine. He can be sublime or provocatively playful. What is certain is that with Geography, the creator of Fast Landscapes and Horizon Pieces (2003) has given us a new kind of percussion.