Malcolm Barton’s response to the Alexander Cozens ink painting : “A Mountain Pool”;
The Innominate Tarn – the place where all ghosts meet
It was the title of the work in the University archives – “A Mountain Pool (also known as A Mountain Tarn)” by Alexander Cozens that originally caught my eye. The term tarn is extensively used in the Lake District – an area that I have climbed and walked in over many years.
The ink painting on paper is a fairly unremarkable but the artist, Alexander Cozens (1717 – 1776), turned out to be quite interesting. Cozens developed a technique that is often described as ‘blot painting’. He commenced with a random series of marks that were later refined into landscapes. He is said to have influenced the work of artists such as Joseph Wright of Derby and possibly J M W Turner and John Constable.
I kept to the spirit of Cozens by using pastel that I worked over an acrylic underpainting on a gessoed board. The underpainting was deliberately kept thin so as to maintain the brushed texture of the gesso. Whilst the line drawing in thin ultramarine was an accurate representation of what I wanted to paint the subsequent underpainting was applied broadly and with a high degree of randomness before the final image was accurately developed using soft pastels. The importance of the underpainting is that it shows through the pastel in places and creates a complex finished work that is interesting at all viewing distances.
Incidentally, the title comes from the fact that many Lakeland ramblers, influenced by the guidebook writer Alf Wainwright, express the desire to have their ashes spread on the shores of this beautiful Lakeland tarn so that they can rest for eternity within sight of the great fells of Great Gable and Pillar.