Lanyon_Alfred Wallis with the wreck of the Alba (1)


Cornish painter, author and filmmaker Andrew Lanyon takes humour seriously.  Writing about laughter he said, “Maybe it used to be an alarm, a dinner-gong in the jungle, one sounded to draw the rest of the tribe close to protect us from predators while we devoured the beast we’d just clubbed to death.”     His distinctive form of whimsical surrealism, expressed in illustrated books and small paintings, can be experienced in this intriguing display.

Lanyon’s trajectory of interests took him from conjuring at 7, via photography and filmmaking, to a preoccupation with humour. “I suppose magic tricks and comedy both ‘pull the wool’,” he says. ”So maybe I’ve been going from an external deceit to an internal one, from sleight of hand to sleight of mind.”

His narrative paintings often feature a cast of characters associated with his home town of St Ives in the 1920s and 30s, although scenarios are fictitious. In one of Lanyon’s best known images, fisherman-turned-painter Alfred Wallis “discovers” artists Ben Nicholson and Kit Wood rather than them noticing him in his cottage, as their meeting in 1928 is usually presented. Wallis lived yards from where the steamer SS Alba was wrecked and a new painting (above) depicts him peering at it over a wall.

Lanyon’s primary concern is now with a type of humour that can perhaps be most easily expressed by writing: “I want people’s mascara to run so they can’t read the book on the train.” But he continues to paint and explains why with the analogy of the moment of release of a glider from its towrope: “One experiences a dramatic silence…  the serenity is tangible. One never achieves that elevated calm when landing back on the noisy tarmac of text.” This display gives an insight into Andrew Lanyon’s perceptive take on today’s world and the past.

Top image: Alfred Wallis with the Wreck of the Alba (31st January 1938) 2017 – 19

Below: The First Notes Fell Like Snowflakes 2017 – 19   Lanyon_The First notes fell like snow flakes (2)