Seán Cotter

paintings and charcoals

Borderlines 2003


Catalogue Essay
Borderlines 2003

There has always been something of a sense of drama in Seán Cotter’s paintings, whether in the mythological subjects of his earlier work, or the impressive crow-infested imagery of last year’s Corvidophilia. That sense of drama comes from Cotter’s ongoing relationship with paint and the act of painting itself, rather than from the nature of his subject matter, a fact confirmed by this show – the heroic and the mythical, even the ubiquitous crow, have been left behind, and yet that same sense of drama still exists in the uninhabited, ethereal landscapes of this latest exhibition, Borderlines.

The title of the exhibition offers the key to these works, and in them Cotter explores notions of interface, of separation and interaction, the horizon line acting as that crucial border between the elements of earth, sea and sky – the below and the above. Impose a horizontal line on a canvas and it immediately takes on a sense of horizon and thus of landscape. Cotter uses this strong yet open-ended suggestion as the vehicle for these paintings, creating landscapes that are not so much referential as the structure in which to work his materials.

In his work Cotter has always exhibited a muscular painterliness, and these recent paintings are records of his ongoing relationship with this medium. Within their textural matrix is the evidence of energetic working of the paint, and also the application of numerous layers, imparting depth and dynamism to the works.

The interplay between the two defined areas on each canvas hinges about that imposed horizon – the borderline – and around this fulcrum Cotter allows colour, tone and nuance to interact, qualify, modify and augment. The results present with a subtly luminous, unearthly quality, with the sense of an artist always firmly in control of his medium.

While there are certain hints of reference towards specific landscape, it is clear that we are not in Kansas anymore. It is always something of a brave step to move away from the literal. The confidence with which Cotter has addressed this new territory is testament to his ongoing engagement with the painting process and the sureness of his compass on his artistic journey.


Ian Wieczorek



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