Arthur Lanyon, a fine artist who now lives in Penzance, grew up around painting. Son of renowned artist Matthew Lanyon and grandson of Peter Lanyon, Arthur comes from a dynasty of painters.
“I guess it must have had an impact. I was always drawing and painting when I was little,” he says. “That’s got to have something to do with it. If your brain is being wired in that way, then it’s only natural that you’ll carry on in that way. There’re quite a few of us in the family. My dad’s brother is an artist as well.”
It’s in the family home that Lanyon’s love of paint and painting finds its roots.
“When I was little, I watched my dad and my cousin and they were able to just make things, because they were older than me. I could never make an object or something in the way that they could, because I was so little,” he recalls. “There’s something I love about the buzz that you get from just making something. That makes me happy.”
Arthur’s path to becoming a painter was a fairly straight-forward one.
“I started off with a foundation in Falmouth, a BA in Cardiff School of Art & Design for three years – that was good – and then moved to Bristol for a bit. Now I’m down in Penzance, Cornwall,” he explains. “I was away in India for six months last year. When I got back, I got a new studio down in Marazion. It’s a lovely place. Right out of my window, I can see the north eastern side of Saint Michael’s Mount. It’s great. I really enjoy it down here.”
Lanyon’s career took off very soon after leaving the School of Art & Design in 2008, having received a first in Fine Art. The same year that he graduated, he appeared in group show Saatchi’s ‘New Sensations’ at the Old Truman Brewery, London.
“It was a really good experience and very exciting too. That was a competition. There’s a lot of competitions now; it feels like there are more than there ever were,” he laughs. “It was on the Saatchi online website and it was competition based: you send JPGs of your work and write a statement about what you might want to do with your work. We all just came together through that.”
This early success was followed by exhibitions in the Saatchi and Edgar Modern (Bath) in 2009, View Art Gallery (Bristol) in 2010, Bay Art (Cardiff) in 2011 and on the Saatchi website in 2012. This year, Lanyon will have another exhibition in Penzance that will give a first airing to his new work.
“I’m working on some monochromatic pieces – one colour – as a way to deal with the formal and structural issues of painting, rather than getting bogged down with colour balance and everything,” he says. “I’ve kept it stark and simple. I’ve made loads of these monochromatic yellow pieces over the past few weeks. It’s great because when you cut out the colour balance, you can just concentrate on the structure really quickly and easily in the decision-making process of what to do next. I’m just priming up canvases and staying on the same patch for a little while.”
Given Lanyon’s reputation for producing powerful, high impact pieces using colour to a maximum, this move towards using a single colour and concentration on structure rather than colour balance seems radical.
“[All of the new paintings] are quite hard edged and I’m trying to think about opposites. Opposites attract and embellish one another’s potency formally,” he explains of his new work. “I want to get more than just one hard-edged powerful structure. Line and structure then come together. It seems to be working with these ones. It’s slightly different for me.”
The work is partly influenced by Lanyon’s recent trip to India, where he spent six months.
“The trip was a bit of everything really. A change of scene. I did a lot of drawing there and that was quite overwhelming: the subjects, the sources of imagery. We did a lot of drawing and travelled all around,” he says. “I think that influenced what I’m doing now. We went right out into the desert, on camels, on boats with flying fish. There were good and bad points and I’m just giving you the glossy version.”
Despite his strong style, Lanyon is reluctant to describe his work in any kind of verbal terms.
“I prefer to let the work do the talking. I’m constantly figuring out in my head and trying to verbalise my work,” he says and then laughing continues. “Someone came into the studio the other day and saw a painting called Mining for Lemons and they said that it looked like a still from a sort of post-apocalyptic cartoon animation. That’s not what I was going for, but that’s what they seemed to think of it.”
Lanyon is sure to have a long career in fine art and hopefully continue the dynasty of great painting that has come from his family line.
By Cardiff school of Art and Design
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