'16,'15,'14,'13,'12,'11,'10,'09,'08,'07,'06,'05,'04, '03

Des Hannigan 2006

All paintings have to work hard for their place on the wall and good painters push their paintings relentlessly to get them there. In this latest collection of Matthew Lanyon's, the satisfying sense of an artist hard at work transcends the formalities, the geometry of hung paintings, the gallery's necessary claustrophobia. Work of this calibre wipes out the picture frame; wipes out the walls even.

The forms and colours of these paintings have been shuffled and dealt out by a masterful hand and eye. They are mobile and vertiginous, yet rooted and secure. Their collaborations are magical. This is how a Lanyon painting takes hold. You get all your reactions in one great visual gulp and then you are compelled to explore the lapidary work that has gone into the making of these lyrical, pragmatic, tough, vulnerable events and journeys. Set off on the road to Europa XIV or Highground or Wreck, big, bountiful, muscular works made up of vibrant skeins of expressionist form and colour and meaning that reflect Lanyon's unique sensibilities and his leaps and bounds amid landscape.

Europa XVI
Highground III



For exquisite tone and texture you come back more than once to Mountain Lake and Godrevy XXXVII. With form likewise; in Europa XVI and Godrevy XXXVll, clusters of pilasters, pediments, bastions, buttresses, overhangs and obelisks are propped by sea and sky and then brought full circle, mortared with luminous colour. This is the measure of a painter who enters a space and draws into his head a hurricane of fragments out of its landscape. They go fast and far these fragments before re-emerging, meshed beautifully, yet still vibrant and mobile and entirely recognisable.

Mountain Lake Godrevy XXXVII Europa XVI

In more reflective works such as Mowhay there is a persuasive mingling of expressionism and figuration. You see instantly the bent and cupped figure working relentlessly at the swathing grass; not simply as a necessary chore, but as an experience and with skill learnt over time. Yet, the tight focus of the painting is also charged with black space that illuminates the working figure and that infiltrates the dense grass with light. Conversely, in Sundance II, the eye first becomes riotous, and is thrown to all points by the ignited blocks of colour and then settles into a fixed gaze, before flying off to all quarters once again.

Matthew Lanyon came late to painting after a life of hands-on work, mainly in the building trade. It has left him with an earthy grip on life, a grasp of craftsmanship and a disciplined commitment to the job, whether it be making objects, painting walls or pictures, carpentry, or digging a hole in the ground. He spent time wandering through Mediterranean Europe and the colours and seductive imagery of that great crucible of light and life emerge in such thematic sequences as his Europa paintings in which Lanyon juggles the symbolic, the imaginary and the real into a coherent whole.


The light and life of Cornwall also invest these paintings; inescapably. Matthew Lanyon's Cornish hinterland is dense with heredity, influence and allusion. Yet he has travelled independently alongside that formidable fleet of artists on Cornish waters; an outside boat in the fleet, always with one eye on more distant seas. This is an artist of Cornwall, imbued with the county's being, rather than a self-consciously Cornish artist. His roots are emphatically within the aesthetic and the tradition of Cornish painting, yet there is a certainty that his grappling with the sea-land-scape of Cornwall, its swelling moorland and curved horizons, its wriggling hedges and jigsaw fields, its gravity-defying sea cliffs and its vibrant, splintered colours, is up-to-the-elbows in immediate physical experience; the visceral as much as the cerebral.

Leave it to Lanyon himself to strike the keynote for this compelling body of work - 'Painting, - faster than words, older than thought.'

Sundance II


 Copyright  © Matthew Lanyon 2020. All rights reserved.