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Matthew Lanyon’s 2013 solo exhibition, Tipping Point, is held this year at
The Porthminster Gallery, Westcotts Quay, St Ives.

Clarice Cliff
27.5 x 19.5 inches oil on paper

These new paintings bear witness to the galloping roar of Lanyon’s output in recent years. These paintings strike me as being like animals, as at home with themselves as he increasingly appears to be, and filled with the majesty of their own territories. The range is from exquisitely beautiful and   intricate small works such as My Boy Lollipop, through to highly desirable large, bold paintings such as Clarice Cliff, and on to Tipping Point and Climbing Belle, larger complex pieces beyond the usual domestic scale and rarely seen in commercial galleries.

Baileys Lane
27.5 x 19.5 inches oil on paper

It is always a privilege to grow familiar with Lanyon’s work and to become absorbed in this show is to travel into a unique world;  his own country of colour, shape, symbols, life forms and local landmarks. He creates a challenging visual language, referring and relating to other genres, cultures and histories, and to some of his father’s best loved works, but as ever, there is simply no mistaking whose paintings these are or the intimacy inherent in each painting. 

Write me a few short lines she said

One work, ‘Write me a few short lines she said 2013,  features hundreds of tiny glass vials, corked bottles behind glass, each label inscribed individually with his tiny writing. The words are fragments from things heard, overheard, used, imagined, read, or written from personal experience – they transcend authorship. Lanyon produced his first small bottle piece in 1996 based on his own poem. Since then he has become an avid collector and the result is something akin to an expanding visual diary of language which acts as remedy; the healing arts. Take a look – this piece deserves close examination.

Tipping Point
22 feet x five oil and gold leaf on canvas

Lanyon talks of being moved by the story behind the sinking of the Costa Concordia in January 2012. It is just one of the key elements in Tipping Point, a thrilling painting 22 feet wide, vivid with colour, sensuality, intrigue and action. His alternative title for this painting was ‘The Unspeakable Buttons of Captain Schettino’ and the Captain’s twisted face dominates at one end, but this time the ship is potentially being raised up from the ocean and while this painting deals with personal vanity it also reverberates with the potential for vanity on a global scale, to come to its senses.  There appears to be a vast female figure reclining in a hammock across the canvas, and on the left is Lanyon’s queen, resourcefully bearing aloft her tray of hearts: for him this painting is as much about redemption, human invention and co-operation, as unspeakable acts.

Climbing Belle
176 x 39.5 inches acrylic on canvas

Climbing Belle starts from an experience of a rapid climb up the zawn at Bosigran, coming in at sea level in a small plane. It features a climbing girl on the left and another figure heading aloft like a rocket, achieving a moment of disorientation between climbing and diving in a not too distant future when we might rise in an instant up a wire to an orbital platform miles high in the space of an afternoon.

Cheek by Jowl
42.5 x 42.5 inches oil, acrylic and gold leaf on board

 There are indications of a greater pull to St Ives in this year’s paintings, with a strong group including Baileys Lane, Cheek by Jowl,  Downalong Daddyo, Good Read, and Place in the Sun revealing elusive figures in dynamic holding relationships with St Ives and its legacy. Downalong  Daddyo  for example is an explicit homage to one of his father’s  small drawings ‘St Ives Harbour’ 1946,  carefully enlarged to scale.

Downalong Daddyo
60 x 60 inches acrylic and silkscreen on canvas

  Lanyon is aware that this year there seems to be a new presence behind the pictures he makes, hands coming round to hold from the other side. He doesn’t know whether it’s ‘the artist’ or some ancestor or god that we’re going to need to hold things together. These paintings it seems to me are as much about the future as they are the past and present, it’s just that we may not fully understand that for a little while yet.

Place in the sun
70.5 x 21.5 inches oil on canvas

A mere half hour among these paintings and I don’t just want to eat all them all up, I want them to eat me.
Judith Hodgkinson  August 2013


 Copyright  © Matthew Lanyon 2020. All rights reserved.