Foreword by Alexander McCall Smith

A Mask-Head Coalport Jug with Fruit

A Mask-Head Coalport Jug with Fruit
16" height x 14" length
Catalogue: 30

"Edward Hasell McCosh is a painter whose work reminds us of the importance of painterly skills; his themes - bird studies, landscapes, and the occasional still life - are not those with which many popular contemporary artists are particularly associated. Indeed, McCosh's work is a whole world away from that of today's installation artists with their rejection of painting; this is part of its appeal - this continuity with the great tradition of European painting. How important it is that the skills of that tradition should be preserved by working artists, and how important it is that we should still have artists who have skills of draughtsmanship, who can interpret our world in an accessible way. Yet even as we admire the accessibility of his vision, we should remind ourselves of the mastery that lies behind it. McCosh mixes his own paints, using pigments, stand oil, bain-maries like an expert chef, or an alchemist perhaps. And from this process comes colour and light which tubes of mass-produced commercial paint will simply be incapable of creating.

If that were all that there was to McCosh's painting we would be grateful enough, but this is not, there is something profound going on in these paintings. I recall that when I first started to collect examples of his work I felt that there was an arresting quality to them, but I was unable to define exactly what it was. Then I experienced a sort of epiphany when standing in front of one of the Peaceable Kingdom paintings of the American artist, edward Hicks. The Peaceable Kingdom theme is well-known - the wolf lies down with the lamb, the leopard allows the small child to stroke it, the cattle rub shoulders with the lion. These paintings are inspired by a vision of harmony in nature, and their message is as significant today as it was in the nineteenth century when Hicks painted - perhaps even more so. It was while I was looking at one of these paintings in a collection in Washington that the thought occurred to me that McCosh is doing the same thing in his works: he is reminding us of the possibility of co-existence, of the possibility of resolution, of harmony. This is a moral message and I believe that it is at the heart of this artists work. It is also the quality that makes him, in my mind, a great painter. Here is an artist who's paintings are imbued with a subtle but profound reminder that at the heart of our twenty-first century malaise is a loss of serenity. We have lived in conflict with nature and with one another; we have lost our way.

In a world which is obsessed with the pathological - a loud world, strident and unresolved - there are a few artistic voices here and there who's works remind us of the peace that we need to recover for ourselves if we are to be healed. McCosh is one such artist. Look at these paintings: they are quiet; there is no anxiety in them, no unhappiness - just a great healing quiet. That is why they are important and lovely, objects."

Alexander McCall Smith

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