David Cottingham is a London-based artist who has developed a unique body of work on the themes of Dance and Landscape Abstraction in the media of Painting, Drawing and Sculpture.
He has exhibited in New York, Chicago, London, Beirut and Rome. His work is also held in various private collections worldwide.
The artwork ranges from landscape-influenced, abstract paintings to large figurative, dance-inspired, works on canvas. Also limited edition prints and drawings in all media.
My paintings are abstracted improvisations on the two themes that most inspire me, the human body in motion and the spirit of place.
I try to evoke and capture the essence of these but the paintings are also adventures into unknown territories and I hope to create something unpredictable, beyond the subject. I like the work to evolve its own life and meaning, the main aim being to uncover ever deeper inherent structures, forms and emotions in the idea and by using the language of paint on canvas in a very spontaneous way, reveal unconscious worlds and possibilities.
My work has its roots in sculpture, which I originally studied. I apply the paint in a layered, almost carved way which then creates its own unique forms. The other primary technique I use is drawing, particularly in the Dance pieces, where fluid lines are used to delineate multiple movements. After studying Sculpture at St Martins School of Art, where I had been making welded metal dance-like structures, I returned to working with the figure more directly, particularly Drawing.
In time, my love of both music and dance pointed my art in a new direction, towards creating paintings with professional dancers in an improvisational style. After experimenting with different techniques I eventually adopted a linear rhythmic and collaborative approach.That approach combined with my other strand of more abstract painting, along with the colour ideas which it generated, gradually became fused into my current figurative style. The recent large scale, bolder, Dance work was then made possible by a move to my current London studio.
I now continue to work on these strands of painting and sculpture simultaneously as I find they inform each other and grow together.
Light moves across a landscape like the dancer moves through space, I am a painter of transient things.
About the Abstract Paintings
The abstract paintings are inspired by landscapes, cities, spaces, memories and the emotional power of colour and light. They hover between the worlds of abstraction and representation.
The paintings are created by dragging and dripping the paint, as well as using the brush and contain many overlaid glazed areas where planes, levels, horizons and depths are combined to create an intense colour experience. These paintings are also evocative abstractions of place and contain visual symbols of landscape, reinforcing the idea that no abstract is completely removed from the external world. Like the figure paintings, they are both rhythmical in form and improvisational in style.
Recent Show “Made Visible”
Made Visible New Paintings by David Cottingham: D Contemporary Gallery Mayfair, November 2017, Curated by Vanessa Clark of VCArt
“Dancing is Music Made Visible” George Balanchine
The paintings created for this show have a very particular history. My previous Dance-based work has been either on large wall length canvasses or much smaller drawings and mixed media works on paper.
When Vanessa and I were planning the work for these walls, we were determined to present the scope of the larger pieces at a smaller scale, but one that still captured the intensity and freedom of the larger life-size paintings.
To do this I returned in part to oil painting, which offered new possibilities both in fluidity of brush work and also, more importantly, the use of richer colour to denote space and volume. This gave a breakthrough for me to use my linear drawing style to express the movements and at the same time to use colour to overlay or obscure the ambiguous background areas.
About The Dance Paintings
These figurative based works are studies of dance, movement or gesture. Inspired by contemporary and classical dance, music, photography and sculpture. I work with the dancer in life size compositions in which we enter as viewers to move around in a virtual three dimensional space. Originally Inspired by Matisse and Degas, I became aware of my own need to animate the canvas and retain a sculptural quality. The paintings are worked up in layers of observed movement, trying to express the essence of the movement and the dancer. Very little is obscured, so that the progress of the painter and the dancer can be observed. They are painted from life, using the inspiration and styles of individual contemporary and classical dancers .These abstracted and complex figure paintings aim to celebrate the body and express movement of the human figure in its purist form.
“Lost in an exhilarating choreography, David Cottingham’s dancers celebrate the joy of movement and rhythm, Sometimes in flaming compositions worked up in successive layers, reflecting a whole sequence of progressing moves, sometimes in reduced studies of a single pose, the shape accentuated by colour: David Cottingham’s dancers are filling the canvas, conquering it by their continuous rhythmical steps and gestures, taking their places in space and time”. Barbara Goebels-Cataneo.
“Dance takes abstraction further. It has no physical form. It comes from what the dancers do…… it has no objective reality. Its reality is virtual not physical” Candida Smith
“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” Martha Graham