Now in his early eighties, Bernard Cohen has been a key figure in British Art since he came to prominence in the 1960s. Always difficult to label, he has pursued a singular path that, while connecting to many developments in abstract painting over the last 50 years, has resulted in a body of prints and paintings that is both distinct and individual.
“About Now: Paintings and Prints 2000–2015” at Flowers Gallery in the East End of London presented 13 large paintings on the ground floor and four suites of prints upstairs. The exhibition was accompanied by a beautifully illustrated new publication, About Now, with an essay by Ian McKay, who has written on Cohen before, most notably in the monograph Bernard Cohen: Works of Six Decades (2009). Here he interrogates the recent work, peeling away layers and offering glimpses of references, both broadly literary and deeply personal, in language as elegant as the art he excavates. If one required an exemplar of insightful writing about an artist and his art, this should be in the frame: it is thoroughly researched and reveals an ongoing dialogue with the artist predicated on years of mutual respect and a clearly intense friendship.