The Series Paintings
Foreword by Jenny Pery
The irrepressible optimism of Alan Cotton's art cannot fail to lift the spirits. The blast of colour confronting the viewer is invigorating, and the deep perspective of his landscapes seem to entice the onlooker into the picture.
Cotton's densely paint-encrusted canvases celebrate the wonders of the natural world - the physical aspect of the planet we inhabit. His paintings communicate his sense of awe in particular places, and the thrill of being in wild countryside. A true Romantic, Cotton pays his homage to nature in paint, as Byron did in verse. There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rupture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar, I love not man the less, but Nature more.
The problem for a painter is how best to embody and fix permanently this passion for the natural world. Alan Cotton solves the problem with luscious oil paint and resounding chords of colour. His delight in the materials he uses is as obvious as his delight in the scenes he depicts. Working in his studio from drawings and colour notes made on the spot, he relives the excitement of being in those special places by the mixing of colour and the energetic application of thick paint. Using a variety of painting knives, he finds pictorial equivalents for the slabby surfaces of rocks, the delicate tracery of foliage, the watery reflections in Venetian canals, and the foamy edges of sea on shore. He works thematically several canvases on the go at once, and continually forages in his sketchbooks for new compositions and new ways to express his feelings about the sights he has seen.
It was as a young boy in the cornfields of Worcestershire that Alan Cotton first experienced the visual thrill of the landscape, but now he travels widely in search of those places that particularly excite him. The current exhibition covers many different series: those landscapes where a single visit had him working feverishly to capture the most memorable images, as in Sicily and New Zealand; more recent forays around the north Cornish coast and the west coast of Scotland; and also some of his favourite and much-visited painting haunts - the striated cliffs of Hartland, the rain-soaked coast of Ireland, and the lush terrains of Piemonte and Provence. Although Cotton's output is prodigious, the demand for his work is as strong as ever. The paintings in this twenty-first exhibition with Messum's Fine Art will certainly be dispersed, as on all previous occasions, into art collections all over the world. Alan Cotton is painting as vigorously and expressively as ever and his enthusiasm for his subject is undiminished.
Jenny Pery 2011
Jenny Pery is an Art Historian and the author of numerous artists' monographs including the two books on Alan Cotton, "On a Knife Edge" and "Giving Life a Shape"