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Soaring Flight, Peter Lanyon's Gliding Paintings, The Courtauld

  • I’d always known Peter Lanyon’s gliding paintings but I’d never really got them, or really liked them until this show. Nor did I know that he’d made weird little gliding sculptures or that the later gliding paintings were less worked with thinner more flat colours. The little sculptures remind me of cubist works by Picasso. They have a strange homemade but artistic quality to them.


    All the paintings have a sense of flying and vigour, but the one that initially got me more enveloped was one of the later ones called North East. It’s got a stomach dropping twirling sensation which actually gives you a good sense of that feeling as a plane moves around when circling and things rotate on a spot. 


    Peter Lanyon, North East, 1963


    Even after this I still wasn't quite feeling it. Yes the paintings are ferocious and bold, energetic but not violent. I guess what bothers me is the lack of formal contrasts that I like in pictures. There's none of that here. Is it purely trying to paint a sensation or experience?


    Then I looked at one called Cross Country. It's as if there's a picture of Cornwall in the background and on top are mad black lines attacking it, like a chaos of graffiti style.



    Peter Lanyon, Cross Country, 1960


    I read a little more of the blurb about the pictures, which actually is amazingly good for once, and I saw more about how the paintings are meant to be sensual like his feeling of flying, he also has this idea that the sea and land are male and female, and there’s also metaphors for emotions in the turbulent or calm sections of the works. It’s not just about him summing up the flying experience, there’s a deeper looking for connections.



    Peter Lanyon, Calm Air, 1961


    Then I read that he didn’t want a band of blue sky at the top like most landscape paintings have. He wanted the sky all over, almost in a kind of crazed cubist style of seeing things from all the angles of a pivoting, spinning glider.



    Peter Lanyon, Long Shore, 1962


    Then you being to realise that there isn’t mean to be a landmark to lean on. You kind of have to just go with the pics and fly with them. Not analyse them. Cracking stuff.


    Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon's Gliding Paintings, 15 October 2015 - 17 January 2016


    Review by Robert Dunt, Founder/CEO -