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Journey to the Stars  
Matthew Lanyon's latest exhibition at Penzance's Rainyday Gallery reflects more than a painter's hard work and his hinterland of great Cornish Art and artists. Deep personal loss underwrites these works. It has resulted in a collection that in many ways celebrates as well as grieves. Lanyon has come through, with his strength as a painter and as a human being intact.

As with all landscape artists a sense of place and also of universality invests Matthew Lanyon's work. His subjects in this exhibition take us between Slovakia and Cornwall, but personal circumstances, over the past year especially, have rooted him at his home in West Penwith in the parish of Ludgvan, facing East, South, West, across a great corner of Mount's Bay to outer Cornwall.

For a long time Lanyon has been absorbed by the sun's daily jaunt, especially it's rising. The symbolism may be obvious; rebirth, light, hope; these are strong flails against the gathering darkness. Yet the night itself invests the theme of this exhibition with starry metaphors, and also with the hard science behind the glitter.

Whenever he could, whenever the sky was clear, from his eyrie above Ludgvan, Lanyon has watched for some time, the sun rise, and has tracked the sun's edging across the eastern horizon, with the high swell of Carnmenellis Hill at its fulcrum. Thus, the sun and its power to heal and regenerate is the main guest at this feast of paintings. They range from the handy-sized Plein Air Sunrise to the huge, exuberant, final statement of Journey to the Stars.

There are 'classical' Matthew Lanyon pieces here also; Highground, Eurydice, Kynance, Madonna, all of them bursting with his signature marks of vibrant colour and imagery. And finally there are gentle, remarkable works, such as the The Alphabet and Field Mouse gets Owl, literal pieces that tell, without sentimentality, a story of the shared human condition and bring to some kind of regenerative, memorable, powerful conclusion a certain time in this remarkable artist's life.

Des Hannigan July 2007


Plein Air Sunrise
     
Eurydice XIV
The Alphabet
   

The paintings of Matthew Lanyon
on first glance – inescapably recall
the later paintings of his father Peter
Lanyon. But Matthew Lanyon is
evolving his own language of forms,
working his way through ideas,
sorting out his thoughts about what
painting is, what it can be and where
he is taking it in the difficult context
of following his father’s footsteps.
A self-taught artist, he bears the
trademarks of a natural painter who
continues to evolve.

He has as much rigour and self-doubt
as any artist who has been trained –
perhaps even more than those who
have formally studied how to be
articulate about their work. In the
last five years he has made two
hundred and fifty paintings – mainly
for a commercial context – and success
has raised his game to make paintings
of scale that may reach, eventually,
beyond the commercial gallery
context.

He is interested in information gathering
and the process of its assimilation. His
paintings are a synthesis of living and
remembered experiences, including
contact with other people and
observations of natural systems such as
the movement of constellations and
how these can be measured and re-told.

Susan Daniel-McElroy: Art Now Cornwall
at Tate St.Ives, 3 February – 13 May 2007
© The author and Tate St.Ives 2007.


Madonna III
 

Seven Suns  

America has the atom, holds the world in sweaty palms.
Granny gets the telly first...
Wednesday nights at her place watching Quatermass and the Pit,
Until we have to run screaming from her back door, out of our wits,
Terrified through alien darkness, all the way back home from Mars.
“…you can stay up, if you’re in your pajamas
and…ready-for-bed.”
Boy Peter in the kitchen, painting like his dad:
“ …look mum - no hands…”
“ …now, go and show your father what you’ve done then straight-to-bed.”

He’s in the sitting-room, cat across his great fisherman’s-jersey-covered chest,
Picking paint off his hands…Bilko on TV.
He makes me feel good about what I’ve done then leaves me with a caution:
“…the painting has to come out of your experience.”
He’s 39. I’m six.

Fast-forward fifty years…
Soliloquy on Autopilot, approaching day one…
Meanwhile… Heroic mode, with radio…
Choosing a level under Disenchantment.
Waiting for the green light to flash: ‘…memory get a new bulb?’
Pressing Okay. Press Play…
“…next poet to orbit the earth in a good mood dies in his sleep.”
Re-set Disenchantment. Press Play again…
“…first poet to orbit the earth in a bad mood, abducted by Aliens.”

First Alien: “…this one’s got altitude… we’ll take it.”
Autopilot: “…get your long...bony fingers…off-my-poet.”

Green light: ‘…Soliloquy entering Goldilocks Zone…ten…nine…
If it weren’t so subtle, this could be rock-‘n’-roll.

Day one, door wide to a pagan wind, can’t sleep.
Day two scrapes-off all day one’s careful.
Day three, back of that same door:‘Held breath all day – didn’t die.’
Day four, un-pack The Alphabet, the whole ox-cart canvas,
Legs, tails, wheels, dust and all the hollerin’ it takes to
Write this rain inside my heart and Journey to the Stars
In time for bed, into The Time that Land Forgot…
Where’s the Orpheus? Where’s Eurydice?
Deep-in-under where streams meet,‘…beyond the mark,’
Beyond any ‘…species of failure that drives the artist on...’
High above simian…
Go Albatross with out-stretched wings…
Day five, same door: ‘Friday afternoon and there it is – wrong blue.’
Ride The Ancestral right through day six, up-out the ground
Into another suburb of brussels…fall-off and get-up-again.

Fall over a second time. ‘…these are not my trousers.’
Nostalgia...both knees. Where’s Pegasus?
Saddle-up the Palomino…go hedge-comb a stretch of ivy...
Find an old still-fading envelope still damp with premonition -
Last’s Lost Archive of Resolutions - inside, Essential’s List:
Make sunrise…Check out more sunsets…Never trust an atlas…
Day seven, ladder up against a sky with no wrong walls,
Half a life of metaphor and no forwarding address…
If it wasn’t quite so like sky-diving, or taking the next breath,
I’d take up painting, like old Wallis ‘…for the company.’
First Alien: “ …my fingers look bony?”
Autopilot: “ …you’re in my orbit.”
Second Alien: “ …what’s paint got to do with it?”

Matthew Lanyon May 2007

 

House in the Sky II

Analemma

Soliloquy

The Time that Land Forgot
 

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