Mark Cocker's Words for Markmakers

Mark Cocker's Words for Markmakers
Dear Jeni and all of your hugely talented fellow Markmakers
I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to know that my book Crow Country was in part an inspiration for this outstanding exhibition of art.
I hope you will be interested and amused to hear that the book actually first became a serious proposition in a place that is extremely well known for art.  Eight or nine years ago I was sat in the Tate Modern in London (its former director, Sir Nicholas Serota,incidentally, was at one of the other tables).  I was feeling very much out of place and very nervous in such swanky surroundings.
Even worse, I was setting out that lunchtime to convince my editor, a Londoner born and bred,a man of strict urban lifestyle and taste, that my next book was to be on nothing more exciting or exalted than the humble rook.
We all know the bird, even if only subliminally.It is that despised, persecuted and gloriously beautiful creature found up and down this country, in virtually every village and sometimes, it seems, in every field that we pass in the car. Rooks are truly everywhere. They are stitched into the very fabric, the sheer ordinariness of English daily life.
Of course what I had an inkling of and what all of the artists in this exhibition know outright is that the fabric of ordinariness is where all thereal magic lies. It is the task of creative peopleto remind us of the wonder and joy that is literally before our very eyes. Artists such as these, exhibited here today, recall the truth of that line by French poet Paul Éluard: ‘There is another world, but it is in this one.’
I have received a number of accolades for Crow Country, most notably it was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non Fiction in 2008 and it won the New Angle Prize in 2009. None is more meaningful to me than that it should have played some small part in leading to the show tonight. It is a huge privilege to be with you even if only vicariously.
I cannot possibly comment on each piece but simply wish to note the exceptional and consistently high standard across a hugely diverse body of work. I will pause also to say how much I love Amanda Oliphant’s basket of words, which suggests to me how the real poetry of life has to be unscrambled from off the woodland floor or out of the hedgerow. I love the bold mark-making and glorious movement in Jacqui Chapman’s paintings. I love the vast sense of space in Cathy Rounthwaite’s images and the sheer potency of her crow prints. I love the wit and profundity nestled in Jeni McConnell’s clock sculpture. I love the spare but hugely suggestive abstract patterns in Jane Copeman’s prints. Finally I love the sheer delicacy of Rachel James’s beautiful nests.
What a fabulous body of work and all from a single black ordinary magical bird.
Last of all it remains for me to tell you what my editor said all that time ago in that rather nervous lunch at the Tate Modern. I should first point out that my editor, befitting his profession, is a man of very few words and those he does say are delivered in a slow, deliberate, rich, deep, slightly posh accent. In fact he sounds not unlike a rook himself.
He said: ‘rooooooooooooks, I love rooooooooooks.’
The rest, as you know, is history.
Thank you.

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