Thursday 19th September to Saturday 5th October 1996
Foreword by Art Malik
When you look at an Alan Cotton painting, you can feel the sensuality of the mere application of the thick sculpted paint, put in place with great expertise by a knife. Alan loves his medium. He felt he had a talent and he had to get inside that talent and explore it to the full. This is exactly what he does.
We first met in 1992 at his Essentially Provence show at Lords Wood, David Messum's house, in Buckinghamshire. It was the morning after my 40th birthday party. A grey November day, me with a serious hangover, and the only reason my wife Gina was forcing me out of bed, was to meet up with her dad, Colin Rowe, who had made a film about Alan, whom he wanted us to meet, and whose work he was adamant we should see.
The previous summer I had spent three weeks in Provence filming, and to be greeted by the paintings of the Ochre Quarry brought it all back. The colours and the landscape, but more importantly, the light, so unique, were all oozing out from every canvas. The hangover was being cured by the hair of the dog, the eyes were feasting, and I met Alan Cotton.
The gloominess of a Britain in recession, where all forms of Art suffer, were swept away at the sight of Alan enjoying his life, immersed in his work, and actually selling his wonderful paintings. In fact, he sold the lot. The one I kept dragging Gina to have yet another look at was, The Ochre Quarry at Rustrel, a huge canvas filled with light and colour, brimming with atmosphere and reeking of Provence. Her favourite was, The Lower Road to Gordes, a smaller work showing a hillside patterned with buildings and rooftops. These paintings, so different in subject, but so similar in vibrancy and the lustre of light, possess that magic that makes Alan's work so special.
Last summer, Alan and his wife Pat, came to see me playing an artist in Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink. In the dressing room afterwards, over a glass of wine, I was relieved that he believed I had been a painter. Later that year, his Exhibition Reflections, was held at David Messum's Gallery in Cork Street. It was a lovely sunny day, in the Autumn of 1995, and somehow Britain seemed less gloomy, more positive, but Alan was still Alan. The show was a success. The summer in Venice was there on the walls for all to see, and a new car was on the cards.
Last Friday, on a glorious August day, Alan put the hood down on his new bright blue Porsche, and drove up to show us his sketches of Venice, and transparencies of the paintings in this exhibition. It is in the sketches that one sees the genesis of the paintings. A couple of old ladies sketched strolling, suddenly find themselves in a Venetian Fish Market at closing time. Unfortunately our time together was very brief, as I had to return to the film set. We parted as friends often do, hoping to meet again very soon, with Alan's ongoing invitation to our family from him and Pat to join them in their home in Devon, and have some fun with thick paint and painting knives. We can't wait!
9th August 1996