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The exhibition is in partnership with Tom of Finland Foundation and the family of Beryl Cook.

Tom of Finland was an artist known for his pioneering depictions of homosexual machismo in his images of bikers, cowboys, labourers, and uniformed soldiers and sailors. His works had a significant influence on a wide range of cultural figures, including the Village People, Freddie Mercury, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jean Paul Gaultier. Tom of Finland’s masterful drawings gave form to an imaginative universe that helped fuel the real-world queer liberation movement.

Tom Of Finland Exhibition at Studio Voltaire.
Tom of Finland Untitled 1964 (From the Athletic Model Guild ‘Motorcycle Thief’ series) © 1964 Tom of Finland Foundation. Image supplied.

Beryl Cook was a renowned painter who depicted everyday life, particularly in Plymouth. Her works featured larger-than-life women enjoying themselves in nightclubs, cafes, and hen parties, and were rendered in colorful and graphic forms. Cook’s work gained popularity in the mid-1970s and she quickly became known as one of Britain’s best-loved artists, highly recognised for her distinctive and provocative works.

The exhibition includes rich archive material, much of which have never been seen by the public. It includes fan mail, preparatory sketches, source photography, and early publications and merchandise that illuminate their working processes. 

Tom Of Finland and Beryl Cook at Studio Voltaire.
Beryl Cook Elvira’s Café c.1997 Courtesy of the Beryl Cook Estate © John Cook 2023. Image supplied.

Sophie Howe, Beryl Cook’s granddaughter, said: “When Studio Voltaire’s Director Joe Scotland first suggested this exhibition, pairing Beryl Cook and Tom of Finland, we (the family of Beryl Cook) were unsure how the artists complemented each other, but we soon realised their works share so much in common.

“They both have a great sense of humour. Beryl would have been flattered and highly entertained at the prospect of this exhibition, and so are we.”

Beryl Cook exhibition at Studio Voltaire.
Beryl Cook The Lockyer Tavern c1974 Courtesy of the Beryl Cook Estate © John Cook 2023. Image supplied.

During Beryl’s lifetime, her closest friends were members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and it was these friends who encouraged and supported her. She was chiefly interested in painting people, socialising and enjoying themselves, as was Tom.

Durk Dehner, co-founder of Tom of Finland Foundation added: “What would Beryl Cook and Tom of Finland say about them being paired in an exhibition? With big smiles, they would be delighted. The two artists both explored and indulged freely in their sensual exploration of bodies.

Tom Of Finland Exhibition at Studio Voltaire.
Tom of Finland Untitled 1964 (From the Athletic Model Guild ‘ Motorcycle – Thief ’ series) © 1964 Tom of Finland Foundation. Image supplied.

As Tom said, “Cock size doesn’t matter to me. I didn’t start doing those gigantic cocks until the censors let the magazines publish full-frontal nudity. I had to come up with something you couldn’t get in a photograph. So those big cocks are all for the other guys — I’m an ass man myself.”

Beryl Cook / Tom of Finland from 15 May–25 August 2024 at Studio Voltaire, 1A Nelsons Row, London SW4 7JR, United Kingdom.

https://studiovoltaire.org/whats-on/

Special Note on the works of Beryl Cook: Many of Cook’s original paintings entered private collections, but there are now limited records remaining of their whereabouts. Studio Voltaire is keen to hear from those of you who have an original painting and are interested in loaning work for the exhibition, particularly Cook’s inimitable depictions of women—confident, defiant and joyous.

 

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