Soaring Flight Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings Archive

Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings – Video

This major exhibition explores a remarkable and unprecedented series of paintings by Peter Lanyon, one of Britain’s most important and original Post-War artists. Lanyon (1918-64) sought to create a new vision of landscape painting for the modern era that could express both sensory experience and a profound understanding of our fragile existence within the world. During the 1950s, he produced radical, near-abstract paintings of the tough coastal landscape of his native West Cornwall inspired by his experience of gliding, this series will be showcased in a major retrospective at The Courtauld this autumn.

Listen to exhibition co-curator Toby Treves as he explores some of the themes within the exhibition.

You can see more videos from The Courtauld on our YouTube channel.

Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintingwill be on display until  17 January 2015

We’d love to hear what you think. Tweet using #PeterLanyon and @CourtauldGall or find us on Facebook

Feel Uplifted in The Courtauld Gallery Shop. Interview with Artist Jonathan Fuller

Inspired by our fantastic Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings exhibition the shop team have been exploring all things Cornish!

Jonathan Fuller Wall Sculpture

Currently featured at The Courtauld Shop, is a lovely sculpture by the Cornish artist, Jonathan Fuller. We’ve had a chance to speak with the artist to discover more about his unique and stunning works.

Q&A with Jonathan Fuller

Q: What attracted you to using sea glass as a medium?

JF: I grew up in Cornwall, in North Cornwall, and it was something that I always collected as a child. Whenever we traveled to the coast we would collect it and it began mounting up around me.  Upon moving back to Cornwall I decided to put it to use.  It was something I started initially in my textile career that was different from the normal day job.  My first sculpture took about a year to make and everyone who came to see it just loved it.  Galleries became interested as well and it’s something I do whenever I can now.  Even though it’s waste, the sea transforms it into something lovely and smooth and I wanted to use a recycled waste material to make artworks.

Q: Do you spend time everyday looking for glass?

JF: Not every day as I make the frames and mounts that go along with the sculptures and that can take a very long time.  I often take a beach or coastal walk so I will be looking.  It’s really just luck of the draw and depends what you find.

Q: How long does it take you to collect enough sea glass to create a work?

JF: It varies.  The main colours I find are white, brown and green.  It’s the aquamarines and blues that are harder to find.  I’ve got a lot of the more obvious colours but it is the special tones that make the pieces unique.  It’s very difficult to put a time on it.

Q: What do you draw inspiration for your works from?

JF: It’s about colour and form and texture.  It comes from my textile background.  It’s the simplicity of the shapes, whether it’s the ring or the circle and the linear pieces.  What I find interesting about what I find is that with the changing of the tides, four times a day, it’s a circular movement.  It’s always a motion of change.

Q: Do you have a favorite coastal line you have visited throughout your travels? And what was so special about it?

JF: I traveled a lot with my textile career but when you’re working and doing trade it is always difficult to visit the coast.  We lived in London for ten years my wife and I.  I always missed the Cornish coast.  I do not believe you can get much better than the Cornish coast.  There are real differences in the Cornwall coast alone that are fascinating.  If I had to pick a coast I would have to pick the one I live on.  There is a beach in America (Fort Bragg) that I would love to visit as it is made entirely of glass and there are a few beaches in Hawaii that are spectacular.  But if I had to be honest, I think my little piece of coast is just fine.

Q: Is there a specific artist or genre that influences your work?

JF: I’m very fond of the St.Ives school.  One of my favorite is Peter Lanyon who is in your gallery at the moment.  I think Lanyon is definitely one of my favorites as well.  I wanted to see the exhibition when I came up to drop the sculptures off.  I couldn’t actually find parking when I was there.  But I’ll be up very soon to see it.

Q: Does sea glass hold a specific meaning for you?  Is it representative of something you could share with us?

It’s something I’ve always been attracted to.  I spend my time looking at the sand and not the view.  It can be quite compulsive and you keep hoping you’ll find another bit. I also really like the fact that it’s recycled and that it’s had a life cycle; some may be two years old or two hundred years hold.  They all have a history.  Sometimes they have words on them.  You can tell where they’ve come from sometimes.

Q: I know you have a whippet dog, Nell, and that you were hoping to train her to retrieve sea glass.  Has that come to fruition?

She’s a lovely dog but she is more of a chasing dog.  So to answer your question, I would have loved to but I am afraid the answer is no.

Q: I know you own a Will Eastham Surfboards red long board.  Is that going well?

I’m doing pretty good.  I’m not as good as him because he is incredible.  But it’s a lovely thing just to look at let alone ride.  I was in recently since it’s been pretty mild so it’s been going very well.

Q: What does the future hold for you and your work?

I found a beach recently with very white wood on it.  There are all kinds of twigs and branches that the sea has basically stripped the bark off and the sun has bleached.  They appear almost like bones.  I am currently making a piece made from these sticks and branches.  I also look at different forms of marine debris such as plastics.  There are so many human things that have been discarded that have ended up in the ocean.  It saddens me the amount of wildlife that is negatively affected by it.  I would like to make more pieces to highlight the impact we are having on our oceans.

Own a piece of Jonathan Fuller work for yourself from our Shop.

Book now to see Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings 

Discover Christmas at The Courtauld Shop

With mistletoe and tinsel in hand, the Courtauld Shop Team have been extensively preparing for the Festive season. We invite you to discover an array of festive and gallery-inspired gifts we have to offer this year. Explore a variety of hand-glazed ceramics, ornaments and trimmings, art prints, jewellery and gourmet treats. Hand-crafted decorations are available from top UK designers such as Je Vous En Prie and Amica. We also have Farrah’s of Harrogate gourmet biscuits, Turkish delights and Schlünder Stollen Fruit Cake.

We are situated in the elegant surroundings of Somerset House in the heart of Covent Garden. Our staff are knowledgeable and are eager to help you find that special gift.

The shop is open from 10:00 to 18:00 and extended hours will coincide with the November Peter Lanyon Late Event.

You can also find us online www.courtauldshop.com

Showcase Week Starts Today!

The Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Presents…

SHOWCASE WEEK: Land to Shore

For one week only the team of postgraduate Print Room Assistants will be presenting a selection of five of our most striking works on paper for public viewing, thereby marking the third presentation of the biannual Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Showcase Week.  The first two installments highlighted depictions of The Nude and Scaled-Up, while the forthcoming week is dedicated to the study of prints and drawings that deal with the theme of Land to Shore.  The aim of this theme is to focus attention on how artists explore the relationship between land and sea, the extent to which a division is created by the coast or the horizon, and how this is interpreted on paper.  Including drawings and prints from the 1500s to the 1900s by artists from Bruegel to Turner to Kokoschka, this Showcase Week presentation encompasses the impressive breadth of The Courtauld’s collection of works on paper in terms of period, media, geography, and function.

‘Land to Shore’ also complements two exhibitions currently on view in The Courtauld Gallery, both of which focus on different elements of landscape.  The display in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery, Panorama, explores invented, observed, and mapped panoramas while the Gallery’s major autumn exhibition, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings, highlights the artist’s near-abstract paintings of the coast of his native West Cornwall from the 1950s.

Between 1.30pm and 5pm this week our doors will be open without any appointment necessary, and each work will be on display for one day only.  Our friendly Print Room Assistants are eager to introduce their selected prints and drawings to the public and will be on hand to discuss them and answer questions.

The following works will be the focus of each days session:

Monday

Brugel

Pieter the Elder Bruegel (ca. 1525-1569), A storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp, Circa 1559, Pen, brown ink and graphite, D.1978.PG.11

Two-thirds of this striking drawing are dedicated to a vivid study of the motion of waves during a storm. Beyond the receding waves of the river Schelde the city of Antwerp, one of the North Sea’s premier trading ports, can be seen. The visual dominance of the water dwarfs the city and the ships, underscoring the power of nature.

 

Tuesday

Capture

Melchior Küsel (1626-1683) after Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607 – 1642), Coastal Cityscape with Ships, 1670, Etching, G.1990.WL.3018.79

This imaginary harbour scene by the German artist Johann Wilhelm Baur is based upon Venetian cityscapes. Here the manmade quay that cuts at right angles into the water is emphasised through the monumental buildings built along this artificial shoreline.

 

Wednesday

boats

Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714 – 1789), Harbour scene, Naples, around 1750, Pen and ink, brown watercolour, graphite, D.1952.RW.1798

Vernet drew the Darsena (harbour) of Naples several times on his many trips there while living in Italy between 1734 and 1753. Here, using only his pen, ink, and brown washes on paper (left bare in places to depict the surface of the water reflecting sky) he captures the intensity of Mediterranean light.

 

Thursday

Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), Storm on Margate Sands, around 1835-40, Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour (white and blue) on paper, D.1974.STC.2

J.M.W. Turner produced a number of watercolours depicting the coastal landscape of Margate, a town where he went to school in his childhood and often visited throughout his life. In this vibrant watercolour, Turner focuses on the interplay between land, sea, and sky, as well as light and darkness and atmospheric elements by masterfully combining the use of different media.

 

Friday

Watercolour

In this drawing, Kokoschka achieved rich colouristic effects in the foreground by applying washes in a swift, painterly manner. This vibrancy separates the land from the steel blue sea, rendered in more uniform horizontal strokes.

 

Taking to the skies in the name of research.

As we open the doors this week to the Courtauld Gallery’s autumn exhibition Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings. Curator Barnaby Wright shares with us the great lengths curators will go to all in the name of research…

Toby and Barney with Glider

From left: Toby Treves and Barnaby Wright with Glider

Being a curator can take you to some unusual places. I thought I had experienced my fair share of these during my career at The Courtauld Gallery but I was made to think again the other week as I strapped myself into the tiny cockpit of a glider and moments later was catapulted a thousand feet into the skies above Luton. ‘Strange’, my instructor exclaimed as the launch cable released with a loud bang, ‘this dial says we are going up and this one says we are going down.’ It is at moments like this that commitment to one’s career is gently tested.

I had been persuaded to spend a day gliding by Toby Treves, the co-curator of our exhibition, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings.  Taking up gliding had given him new and vivid insights into the remarkable series of paintings Lanyon produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which were based upon his experiences as a glider pilot.  Sitting at the time on a reassuringly earth-bound bench in The Courtauld Gallery, I had agreed to follow suit – after all, our exhibition policy lays great emphasis upon the importance of primary research….

Lanyon’s decision to take up gliding was fuelled by his desire to experience the landscape of his native West Cornwall as completely as possible.  During the 1950s, he produced radical, near-abstract paintings of the tough coastal landscape around the Penwith peninsula.  One day in the summer of 1956 Lanyon was walking across a high cliff top when he looked up,  saw three gliders soaring overhead and realised that this was the experience he needed.  He began gliding seriously in 1959 and went solo for the first time in 1960, clocking up many flying hours over the next few years.  Freed from a land-bound perspective, Lanyon poured his new gliding experiences into his art, producing paintings that offer a thrilling sense of his encounters with the land, sea and air, collapsing the multiple perspectives of his flights into each new composition.  The paintings were also profoundly shaped by Lanyon’s new-found glider pilot’s knowledge of the character of the air – its different movements, textures and forces, as well as the dangers and life-lines that it presents as one navigates through the thermals and up-draughts that are the invisible map essential for the glider to successfully complete a flight.  Lanyon’s gliding paintings stand as a unique achievement of twentieth-century art, reinventing and furthering the tradition of landscape painting in ways that can also be seen to engage deeply with the pressing existentialist concerns of the Post-War world. Sadly this remarkable project was cut short by Lanyon’s unexpected death in August 1964 whilst recovering from injuries sustained in a gliding accident.

I may have had some initial reservations about following Lanyon into the skies, but my day gliding was both enlightening and exhilarating.  It is quite unlike the experience of powered flight, even in a small airplane.  Rather than just enjoying the view of the land below from a stable altitude, in a glider one is fully immersed scanning both land and sky for signs of possible thermals, swooping around to feel them out and then being lifted up, enabling you to soar further afield.  This unique experience of movement in all directions through space is fundamental to Lanyon’s gliding paintings and helps to explain why they are so unlike straightforward aerial views,  so familiar from photographs or from peering out of the window whilst flying over Heathrow.

The Courtauld’s exhibition is the first devoted to Lanyon’s gliding paintings and is an opportunity to see this extraordinary body of work.  It brings together major paintings from public and private collections internationally, some never before exhibited in this country, alongside a small group of his related constructions.

BARNABY WRIGHT (BA 1999, MA 2000, PhD 2005) DANIEL KATZ CURATOR OF 20TH CENTURY ART

Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings is on display at the Courtauld Gallery from 15 October 2015 until 17 January 2016. For more information visit courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/exhibitions/2015/Lanyon

 

Watch Barney in action