Friday, 19 September 2014


Devon - Winter View from the Artist's Studio.
It is a bold move when in September one person shows another person a picture of a snowy cottage. This is the time when catalogues and charity appeals and the lids of chocolate boxes are getting geared up for Christmas. But there is nothing sweet or sentimental about this painting by Alan Cotton. The lighting is particularly good in this gallery and the artist is determined to exploit paint's physicality, with the result that you can see the thick, crisp crunchiness of the snow, and feel the rough trees stripped bare of soft foliage.  In the bottom right hand corner you can glimpse a sheltered path making a sharp left-hand turn to we-know-not-where.

The catalogue contains an anecdote about how, through a network of mutual friends and acquaintances, John Berger made an impromptu visit to the artist's  house and examined some of his unfinished landscapes.. John Berger is distinguished in many areas, but his four-part series of 30-minute films in 1972 led to a book Ways of Seeing, a classic text  which profoundly altered the way many of us looked at pictures. Berger's reaction to Cotton's work was to encourage him to paint exclusively with a knife as  he believed Alan had 'a real feel for using paint'.

Devon - Dazzling Light at Hartland
While it may be possible to sculpt paint into fallen snow with a knife, what tools do you use when you want to depict slippery, shining water, which stands still for not one  moment? On the left is a painting not unlike one I wrote about earlier: Blog112 Devon - Surging Tides over the Rocks at Hartland.

It makes an interesting contrast to Michael Kidd's style of painting featured in  Blog 304 The Calm Before. In each of the works rows of 'battlements' point out to sea, but Kidd paints a serene beach, each pebble in its place, the silvery turquoise sea apparently in a moment of torpor and the groynes like guns pointing downwards with military precision.

Alan Cotton's work is not confined to beloved Hartland, in Devon, but includes Provence, Piemonte, Venice, Sicily, Cyprus, Morocco, Ireland and Everest. On the right, in the Mediterranean heat and haze of a Venetian canal, the ripples on the surface dance in a coat of reflected colours.before your eyes.

 Venice-Sunlit Ochre Reflections



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