Peter Lanyon was one of the St Ives group of painters and was taught by William Coldstream and Victor Pasmore at the Euston Road School. Among others he was strongly influenced by Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Despite all this he disliked to be classified as belonging to a particular coterie refused to draw a distinction between abstract and figurative work. In fact, his paintings owe more to Turner than any other artist.
In the 1950s his subject was the Cornish landscape, weather and aerial perspectives when he took to painting on cliff tops and high on the moors. One day, the story goes, he saw gliders soaring over the coastline, and knew this was the ultimate perspective he needed to express his vision.
This was a vision of the very air, the weather, clouds, fields and coastline far below. When he took up gliding in 1960, he tried to express the rush of speed and the solitary quiet of gliding in his paintings.
He sometimes added the track of his glider, impending storms, weather fronts, turulence, gales, thermal currents into the mix, achieving an ethereal expression of his experiences.
I thought these big, expressive canvases exhibited at the Courtauld, quite appealing and personal. They express one person’s experiences as he immersed himself in the land, sea and air that he clearly loved. The title of each work is descriptive and helped me interpret what I was looking at, helped me step into the shoes of the artist a little. As a sailor I could empathise with the way he seemed to feel the air and its currents as a complex, physical entity; its uplifts, sudden downfalls, speed, power; how he could harness the air to his own desires, but always feeling ultimately at the mercy of sudden changes.
Also I admired Lanyon’s use of paint and colour. The paintings were built up in layers of pure, clean hues, sometimes with bold gestural lines cutting through them, resulting in complex canvases with plenty of interest