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Matthew Lanyon: Paintings 2008

Rainday Gallery, Penzance   Until 11th October


Matthew Lanyon's Paintings 2008 have a totemic quality: sometimes partially buried, sometimes not. They mix geometric shapes, angles and colours that bring the viewer into the painting.  There are Dali-esque moments in the symbolism and narrative, and Aboriginal tags in their sense of place, journeys and maps.

'Godrevy XLVIII' lies like a woman, a tree, a whole land reclining; its upper burnished orange contours opening to the day; magical and breathing whilst nearby 'Red Galver' opens like a doorway of perception, a view from a cave outward or an inner sacred place.  The two suns are a potent skew on reality and the geometric shapes are less sharp, blended and merged with curves.

The sheer size of 'The Deepening' makes for an impressive piece and the tribal echo of dots create a sense of journey through the painting; up into the black point of transition in the far horizon.  This could be a metaphor for life and death, known and unknown and our movements through these states.  Is Lanyon exploring the early death of his father and the places it has taken him?

'Alphabet 9' is interesting, quirky and very different from the other work present; although there are another three pieces where this theme is repeated.  Each bottle has a piece of writing on the label such as 'what if I become strange while you are gone', 'triumphant monster', 'is Vladimir out of copyright yet?, 'pile ups in the perfect'.  The text here reminded me of John Lennon's 'A Spaniard in the Works' where he plays with language, tense and grammar and there is something playful, anarchic and hallucinatory at work.

There is a fresh, na´ve innocence in 'Going to Space' and the attention to nature mixed with types of man-made environment and objects is something I can see running through Lanyon's work.  This is seen for instance in the smaller 'Godrevy 50'; its depiction of a rock emits a feeling of sacred dreaming yet there is some murmur of modernity.

'Loe Bar' is a joyous painting and combines mythological with modern; the use of colour and lines again promote a wanting to travel through and into the work and this piece feels like a true celebration of Cornish landscape and the song of the earth.

The theme of nature with the influence of man apparent is again seen in 'Godolphin Sun and Moon'.  Lanyon's work seems to show a 'power with'; the buildings, boats or objects do not seem to detract from the majesty and infinite strength of the natural world.  Maybe his experience in the field of construction mixed with his artist's soul are being shown in these symbols?  Whatever the case might be, these paintings do create a resonance and this is an exhibition worth taking some time to view.


Linda Cleary    30th September