Painting For Arts Sake - On a Knife Edge

Jenny Pery reviews the paintings of Alan Cotton Devon Life - Autumn 2003

Alan Cotton's landscape paintings are well known for their bold composition, strong coloration, and thickly applied paint laid onto canvas with painting knives. The paint is juicy and tactile, the colour generally high-key, and the whole composition alive with romantic appreciation of the scene described. All Alan's work is imbued with an optimistic and unquenchable enjoyment of countryside, whether it's the soft water meadows around the River Otter where he lives or the jagged rock formations of Hartland in North Devon. His appreciative exploration in paint of the appearance of the land extends beyond Devon to other countries he has visited - Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Morocco, and especially France. For some years he was thought of as a Provencal painter because he had made so many paintings of the hill towns around Gordes in Provence. But his work is wide-ranging, both geographically and in subject matter. The stuccoed buildings and watery reflections of Venice are portrayed with the same delight as the wild skies of Connemara, the arid mountains around Marrakech, the blazing vineyards of Piemonte, or the lavender fields and blossoming orchards of Provence.

More than 20 years have elapsed since Alan Cotton gave up teaching and began to paint full-time. Thousands of his paintings have found their way into public and private collections all over the world. It therefore seemed appropriate to summarise his achievements to date with a book, due to be published by Halsgrove in October. On a Knife Edge is a handsome, copiously illustrated hardback volume charting Alan's career from his early years in the Midlands to his present position as a successful British painter working at the height of his powers. The book gives an insight into his life as a painter, his thought processes and working methods, as well as forming a retrospective exhibition of his best work, from early drawings right up to the most recent paintings.

Copies of On a Knife Edge (priced at £29.95) can be obtained from Halsgrove, Lower Moor Way, Tiverton Business Park, Tiverton, Devon EX16 6SS, from Alan Cotton's London dealer, David Messum Fine Art, 8 Cork Street, London W1S 3LJ, or Alan himself will provide you with a signed, dedicated copy. Contact him directly at Brockhill Studio, Church Road, Colaton Raleigh, Devon EX10 OLH.