'Coda for an Obol' (Solo Show, Anima Mundi Gallery, 16th July - 29th August 2022)


It was, to be a dutiful day bending light, so before sunrise, specs unfold wings and perch on the bridge to frame the eyes. A four lens focus group with a crystal clear field of vision. Summoning imagery out of paint is like harvesting scatterings from workings gone to seed. You are making new adaptations of old compositions; fossicking through abandoned structures and noodling around in the mist in search of gold, it is fun, but a serious business to endure. Art historian Rudi Fuchs describes how “The paintings’ imagery grows from the material condition of the surface–preparing the spectacle.”

When Mr broken motif and Mrs empty emblem try for a baby archetype in the making, their moving bodies mold manifold shapes under canvas. Beyond base materiality, the now pregnant symbol clothes the pressure, birthing the possibility for images to be animated internally through layers. There is this underworld of methylated spirit, medium fine, heavy grit, razor blades scratching to get at the beeswax, clawing the turpentine tree, tip toeing around pools of cadmium red, flashing lead white underbellies and digging self-levelling paint for smooth bones. Here lye properties made memorable for the effect they had on one another. Defy the usual cuts, drag an oil stick across pleats off paint like tailor’s chalk, measure arm, wing, finger, feather, toe and claw, foot and paw…

Human perception is not just about seeing what is actually present in the world around us. It's also heavily influenced by our motivations and expectations. When the density of a painting reaches certain points, it behaves less like a group of individual parts and more like a fluid. Momentum rolls clean edged shapes into something, altogether, more travelled. If this inspires my invested gaze, all I ask from the worn and woven surface, is that it triggers an equal and opposite reaction in me, emboldening a fresher more invigorated vision.

A painting title leaning on association, derives from digging over the after image; The sky of 'Lycabettus’, held aloft by the heads of a doctor and nurse, shines through an x-ray inspired geological cross-section. Just below is a sunburst, bolt-action rifle butt. To the left a hot bird fans the flames of two valiant lupines centre stage. They're animated with sound lines and not knowing if they’re playing or fighting, I will call it play-fighting. It turns out the cross-section was cut and collaged from a history book on haunted rocks. In Reuben B. Frost's 'The Stones Can Speak’; "The granite on top of the Acropolis, worn smooth from millions of feet, became a history book; the rock rising above the timber line was now Mt. Lycabettus." Which translates as 'the hill that is walked by wolves’.

Décollage gets grizzly at 12,000 rpm. Inching urgently out of the sandstorm come Pac-Man power lines and gnawn out windows. From back and beyond, tracks of turquoise pigment prop up the painted walls of 'House Almeria’ like vines, but the Queen of Sheba, shrouded by her caravan of gifts, looks discontented with the genie and the hot gazpacho. My make believe morphs in and out of these paintings once made, adding up to everything and nothing - all interpretations are wildly subjective. Squashed in with abstraction and picked out with drawing, an open system in a bounded area enfolds this ambiguity. Curbing the boredom by complicating perceptual expectations.

Things appear to come and go until apotheosis arrives unannounced. I think of this moment as a form of coda. The musicologist Charles Burkhart suggests that the reason codas are necessary, is that, in the climax of a "particularly effortful passage", often an expanded phrase is created by "working an idea through to its structural conclusion" and that, after all this momentum is created, a coda is required to "look back" on the main body, and allow listeners to "take it all in", and in turn "create a sense of balance.”

Leaning in, lateral thinking helps cut the knot so both ends lead to a last and final kiss. Looking up, John Bevis' celestial maps blaze the trail, and down here, under the fringe, I've just read 242 pages on a pair of Poussin paintings as my bamboo graffiti is healing. Symbols clock-in, so flick back elephant hair like bristles on a yard brush and turn up the musical frisson. Fast forward and what is fashioned at the close becomes cursive and integrated - a paintings' ending becomes it's beginning once witnessed - straight line becomes circle as serpent swallows tail. This now serves as part of my broader vernacular for the end game. The thought of making one last drawing begs the question; what might the ferryman value in lieu of the obol? My only offer, whilst I am still here, comes from continuing to orbit this ideal in the hope of capturing something eternal.

Arthur Lanyon, June 2022