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Alan Cotton presents his Everest experiences. Photograph: Alan Jones
Photograph: Alan Jones
Photograph: Alan Jones
A Painter's Journey to Everest

This years' Drecki Lecture was held at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) Exeter on the evening of Tuesday 20th November.

It was a collaborative effort with the Friends of the Museum and the South West Academy of Fine and Applied Arts (SWAc) each providing their own helpers and expertise. The speaker was our esteemed President Emeritus Alan Cotton with his much awaited illustrated talk entitled 'A Painter's Journey to Everest'.

It was suggested that we could have filled The Lecture Gallery twice over, such was the demand for the 140 available seats and we are most grateful to the friends of RAMM who had organised the ticket sales in the weeks leading up to the lecture and who on the night, manned the doors. Inevitably, those who had failed to book early (and many were SWAc members), were to be disappointed.

Guests were welcomed with wine and canapés supplied by SWAc. Our grateful thanks go to all those involved in the organisation of this hospitality with particular mention of friends such as Sally Sedgman and our own Penny Keen who organised the drinks.

Camilla Hampshire, a senior executive of RAMM, welcomed guests to the lecture and thanked them for their support. She then introduced Alan Fynn, Chairman of the Trustees, who spoke briefly of Alan Cotton's long involvement with SWAc and his selfless work with many charities and with the Universities of Exeter and Bath.

The audience, seated in comfortable rows, faced a large screen displaying an excellent drawing made by Alan Cotton when a teenager, of his mother. Below the screen was a table displaying a range of books and catalogues from his many exhibitions held over the years in Messum's Art Gallery in London.

Alan started his lecture with a tribute to the late Zbigniew Drecki, a great supporter of art and SWAc, and who made such a vital and generous financial contribution to SWAc.

With each changing photograph, projected with immense clarity and under the control of Alan's ever present wife Pat, Alan took us on a fascinating journey through much of his own life as an artist with each painting helping the audience to see 'through his eyes' the dramatic coastline of Hartland Point, the moody tones and dramatic skies of Ireland, and the rugged olive trees and linear patterns of vineyards in southern Europe. Alan's great awareness of shapes, colours and sunlight were obvious for all to see.

Then, finally, la piece de resistance, Alan's paintings of Everest, using his trademark palette knife with marvellous slabs of colour and fluttering prayer flags. All the sketches for the paintings were made in moments of extreme cold. The dramatic illustrations were sprinkled with Alan's own fascinating account and insights involved in the highly dramatic events associated with his two never to be forgotten journeys to Mount Everest.

The paintings were completed in Alan's Devon studio and needless to say were a complete sell out in the Messum London Gallery this year.

Mary Nation, Chair of the Friends of RAMM, gave the vote of thanks to draw the evening to a close.

Thanks again to our co-hosts the Friends of RAMM and to members and staff of RAMM who came and helped with this highly successful event, and Thank you, Alan for such an excellent and stimulating evening.

Ann Jones
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