It was with very great sadness that I learned today of the death of Alison Best last night.
My friendship with Alison began many years ago when I was a presenter at BBC Radio Newcastle. She had sent me some photographs of her startlingly original paintings and I knew at once that I wanted to record an interview with her.
I can remember very well the midwinter’s day I travelled through the snow to her house in Kyo, where I was greeted with her warm smile which seemed to banish the cold and gloom of the weather.
When I saw her paintings ‘in real-life’ for the first time that afternoon, I was genuinely awestruck. Alison had single-handedly invented a new art form: Impressionist Stencilling. She showed me the methods she used to choose her subjects - almost always based on plants and other elements of the natural world - and how she composed her paintings.
This latter was a long and painstaking process. And, because Alison was breaking new ground with her work, she had only her artistic intuition to rely on. No-one had ever done what she was doing.
But all her efforts were well worthwhile. The way she combined form with colour and depth was breathtaking and unique; her pictures are almost mesmeric and yet always present something new to see on each viewing.
I love her work and am very proud indeed to possess two beautiful examples of it.
Alison was driven by her passion for, and deep interest in, the work she did and the way it was developing. That the innovation and beauty of her designs were not more widely recognised (especially by the iniquitous Biscuit Factory in Newcastle) is, I think, an indictment of the elitism and innate snobbery of the local ‘art mafia’. In my ideal world, Alison’s work would adorn local galleries, private homes and public offices (including the Pink Palace).
I like to think that she knew of the high-esteem in which I, and many others, held her, both personally and professionally.
With her death, the north-east has lost a colourful and imaginative artist of the highest order, and I have lost a friend.