About the Artist

David Cottingham graduated from St Martin’s School of Art in London, where he studied with William Tucker, Phillip King RA and Sir Anthony Caro.

He is a London-based artist who has developed a large body of work in both the figurative and abstract traditions. David has exhibited in New York, Chicago, London and Rome. Commissions include work for Cartlidge Morland in the City of London featuring the London Light series of abstract paintings. 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.

He has work published in four books: “Life Drawing Class” is published in the UK by Harper Collins and in the US by Watson Guptill. “Draw and Sketch Figures”, published in the UK by Search Press and in the US by North Light Books. “The Encyclopedia of Drawing Techniques” published in the US by Running Press “Figure Drawing” Published in the US by Barnes and Noble.

Member of Axis axisweb.org

Hon Vice President Hesketh Hubbard Society, Mall Galleries, affiliated to the Federation of British Artists. Member of the Chelsea Arts Club, London.

Photo courtesy: Steve Pill / Artists & Illustrators Magazine



“Winter Fire, Return of the Sun”

Artists Statement :

Art is the poetic liberation of the spirit

Light moves across a landscape like the dancer moves through space. I am painter of transient things.

Glimpses become revelation, colour becomes evocation, experience becomes memory, the city becomes the soul, all of these become painting.

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.

Art to me is a reassertion of the true creative force that flows from the earliest cave paintings to the post modern world. A desire to communicate universal truths and to get closer to the mystery of life itself.

Kandinsky: “the psychological power of colour…calls forth a vibration from the soul”

Mark Rothko: “Art is an adventure into an unknown world”


The artist with “Dance Prelude, A Whiter Shade”

About the Abstract Paintings

The acrylic 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.

Their influences are very varied, some are based on particular landscapes, others are about light and the subtle effects light has on our perception of the world and some are inspired by far away imagery from the Hubble telescope.

Generally grouped in series with each series containing works on different themes. The Eclipse series was triggered by observing solar and lunar eclipses and the powerful emotional effects they have on us, with their sudden contrasts of light and dark. The series tries to evoke a sense of being on the earth and looking at the universe. The First Light series tries to recreate the experience of light as landscape, particularly its extremes of early morning and dusk. The Isle of Skye paintings are examples of this ever changing colour drama of the land, sea and sky.

Living in London the light of the city is very important to me, particularly the river light and its constantly shifting effect on the emotions. The London Light series is attempting to express this revelation of light falling on buildings and water, revealing the light and dark history of this great city.

Recent series have included the Australian Earth series, revealing that countries extraordinary light and landscape and an ambitious World Sunrise Series which aims to produce work inspired from around the globe, of which Low tide Sunrise and Prospero’s Star, Bermuda Sunrise are the first results.


“Time After Time” Detail”


See the painting come to life in this movie.


Movie selection, music by Bach.

2012 will see the UK premier of a short film about my Dance work, titled “Tracing the Soul”. Watch here:

Password: parquelage7301



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.

I have always loved observing the dancer, the single figure in motion. After many years of drawing the figure I began to experiment by trying to capture something of the sensation of the dancer’s movement in space. My initial attempts were in sculpture, using welded metal to express the dancers ability to escape gravity. The drawing of movement gradually became a vehicle for me to express two of the themes that I feel are important in figurative art: spontaneity and improvisation.

Music itself is also a very big influence, aligned closely with the music of dance, both classical and contemporary. “Dance Suite” for instance was inspired by the music of Bach; the six solo Cello Suites. It is one of a series featuring particular dancers, in this case Giuliana, who beautiful captured the flowing style and stark emotions of these baroque dance pieces.

The paintings and drawings, which precede them, are always works in progress, records of that spontaneity of expression. The brush becomes an extension of the body, a dancers limb, a fleeting moment captured but hopefully revealing of something that endures of the human form, forever in motion.

“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