The Deepening

In 1997 I was encouraged by the artist Rod Walker to consider the paintings of Matthew Lanyon - whose work he'd seen on the walls of Matthew's home in West Cornwall. Until then I'd only been aware of Matthew's amusing collages and sculptures. Suitably impressed, I invited him to show his pictures at The Rainyday Gallery with
Rod Walker and Daphne McClure, a very successful show that established Matthew
as a painter to be reckoned with. Of course, as the second son of the well known
‘St Ives School' painter Peter Lanyon (who died after a glider accident in 1964) Matthew had grown up in a house full of paintings by both his father and his contemporaries and these were to influence his own work. Matthew Lanyon's fine landscape-based abstracts are notable for a strong feeling for colour and he has now built a substantial reputation on his own account as one of the area's leading painters. Since 2003 Matthew, who amazingly, did not take up painting seriously until he was in his forties has had a solo show at Rainyday every September and is by far the gallery's best selling painter.

Martin Val Baker August 2008

Round's End

Landscapes can be manufactured, managed or left to their own devices. In Cornwall, with its unmanageable coastline and hinterland, the last is still the norm. Painters, especially, have the privilege of grappling with such a landscape without altering or damaging it. They work the landscape in their own way and in these latest works by Matthew Lanyon the sense of an artist who is entirely at one with his medium and the spaces that surround it is potent.

Lanyon's iconography has always been rooted in the elements of land, sea and sky. His mastery of abstraction in relation to earthbound forms and the sea's shifting imagery is emphatic. Yet stars in their courses and the sun and moon in their tracks absorb him also. In this latest exhibition Lanyon works through recognisable themes but with motifs and moments that have become more concentrated. He deals in trajectories and flightpaths of light, sunrise, moon and stars that curve over the key highpoints of West Cornwall , from Chapel Carn Brea above the final broad plateau of Land's End, through the raw summits of Watchcroft and Carn Galver, Zennor Hill and Trencrom to the final, familiar high point of Godolphin Hill.


A keynote painting , Soliloquy, seems to bring together the complexities of Lanyon's recent history and his coming to terms with vicissitude. The thematic forms and colours of the painting hang together in a strange merging of fragility and solidity. In the complex, semi-representational First Light there is a sense of retreat, a closing down. Yet the intoxicating colours liberate rather than constrain. Godolphin Sun and Moon and the deep intensities of Red Galver repeat the same Lanyonesque dialectic, while The Deepening, startling though it is in its departure from Lanyon's celebrations of luminous colour and form, underpins all of these works with the certainty that here is a masterful painter coming through, stronger than ever before.

Des Hannigan 2008

First Light lll
Red Galver, Godolphin Sun and Moon


…on into the deepening… this round
good clung to bad's broad shoulders, wept

and yet, this open road, this wobbly cart
right round its corner goes and back again
so, what does this minoan gaze depict?

…three weeks… it says
…and a packet of polos for the horse…?

…I'd rather be in close-ups, kissing
on the escalator, in the air-lock
kissing you hardly on your way to work
working you harder than have you
work-hardened, hard at work…

would it was in the very beginning , like in
once upon a time… you a still, or
a still-unknown…that first episode of
continents, the mind, before god went bloke
or god, even…before even… even

…I know, I'll play the perfect stranger
just in from outer space, no corners yet
not one crevice, crease or wrinkle
all the known and you with all your corners
covered…all the universe of you

cut, to… rolling, laughing in the afternoon…
cut, to where the grass is pressed, left flat
between two coves…the call, to… come for air
up soon and quick
…editor in voice-overs
…the leading lady turns a midnight blue

in years, another version
…sati, siva kiss for twenty five…
it's in the contract but we need a break
the camera-crew already left, evolved back up
and into space, just an atmosphere away, mind

just time to make some tea, to…
finish-off a cloud, one last glazing-coat
add a little rain in make-up…bring you
up and out into that first flash of green
…ultramarine…we'll ship…

…through dark star-fields of Time's abyss
or, long known smooth from love's left hand
let slip…ex-pot this wobbly cart, this round
with all the haul that we can metaphor
that's it, what ship this is…and yet

what is this ship, if not soliloquy?

…it's that third monkey…
…the one with the nice bum?
…yes, give her the red ear-muffs
…so she can…what?
…what should she be not-hearing then?
…how about that last track on the album
…the one that breaks them up?

…did someone say breakfast?

Matthew Lanyon August 2008



 Copyright  © Matthew Lanyon 2020. All rights reserved.