Lanyon landscapes are as wild as a sea breeze
In the catalogue of the latest exhibition by Cornish artist Matthew Lanyon, Porthminster Gallery director David Durham describes the work as being "as wild as a sea breeze" and fires a warning shot across the bow of any viewer or critic who may attempt to tame it by theory and reasoning.
However, while noting such good advice and having no wish to tame such a talent, on looking at both the huge Climbing Belle and the even larger Tipping Point, a painting inspired by the Costa Concordia disaster, I recall the first time I saw the equally huge Journey To The Stars, which Lanyon exhibited a few years ago.
I described it at the time as being astronomical in every sense, impressive, inscrutable even, but a painting that was guaranteed to stop the viewer or critic in his or her tracks.
Much the same can be said not only for these two giants, but also for the remaining 20 or so canvases in this show.
Born in St Ives, his father was the renowned artist Peter Lanyon, who died as the result of a gliding accident in 1964. Matthew recalls spending days in his father's studio, making model aircraft.
"We made prototype wings out of polystyrene and tried to strengthen them with muslin and glue-size," he said. "Years later I read that someone had written about my father's painting Clevedon Night, which had these wings attached to the canvas. The writer thought they might be 'boats bobbing up and down' but I knew what they were. They weren't boats, but it doesn't matter whether this was true or not. That isn't the point – we read our own life into paintings."
It is something worth bearing in mind when viewing Matthews latest paintings. Compositions in which, as he says, he is "working with landscape and mythology; two figures – male and female, land and sea", they also journey into other unknowns, not least that occupied by the ambiguous nature of life itself and emphasise the futility of even attempting to describe or interpret them.
Rather like music, ultimately, while the viewer is at liberty to think what he or she will about them, there is no denying their intensity, integrity, strength and sense of purpose.
A late-comer to painting, Matthew Lanyon attended Humphry Davy Grammar School in Penzance and later Leicester University, and subsequently travelled widely before returning to Leicester and Cornwall and to a variety of jobs. A self-taught artist, it was not until 1988 that he began to take his work seriously and almost another decade before he started exhibiting it. Since then he has shown widely throughout the UK.
Mind-blowing and mighty and not to be missed, Matthew Lanyon's Tipping Point is at Porthminster Gallery, in St Ives until October 12. Admission is free.