Monthly Archives: December 2015

Peter Lanyon; Soaring Flight

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  

Silent Coast, 1957

Thermal, 1960

Glide Path, 1964







Marc Quinn; Frozen Waves, Broken Sublime

I have admired Marc Quinn’s work since visiting an exhibition at Arter Gallery Istanbul – see my blog entry here there is so much variety of medium and technique – his work is timeless and at the same time incredibly transient.  I love the scale and ambition of his work, the technical accomplishment.  Each piece invites the viewer to linger and ponder, and sends you on having seen the ordinary portrayed in an extraordinary way that stays with you for a long time.


These outsize conch shells, or remnants eroded by the waves, exhibited in the fountain courtyard at the Courtauld Institute, are magnificent.  The cast stainless steel is partly polished to a mirror like finish, reflecting the sky, water and architecture around, and partly worked to a detailed realistic textural finish.  They are objects of great beauty incorporating abstraction and realism.  looking at them, we share an imaginative insight which has transformed a simple, tiny object which goes unnoticed, into a complex web of ideas about transitoriness, change, man’s effect on the natural world.