Friday, November 09, 2007

Art Space Talk: Marcus Lanyon

Marcus Lanyon utilizes a hybrid language of materials to create a 'seductive disquiet'; a simultaneous sense of attraction and repulsion. Themes of mortality, preservation, innocence and violence create narratives that are contemporary and ancient, familiar yet subversive. Like scenes from a fairytale or a chilling dream, the work lures us in only to quietly lift a knife to our back.

Brian Sherwin: Marcus, you were chosen as one of Saatchi's 4 New Sensations. How did you feel upon learning that you had been selected? Also, can you tell us anything about the project created for Channel 4?

Marcus Lanyon: Well, I was rather pleased of course, especially with the judges they had. A prestigious panel. I did run around the studio shouting for a while, then eventually sat down and got back to thinking deep artistic thoughts.

The work I created is entitled ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’. It was actually an extension of an idea that had been in my sketchbook a few years ago but I had never had the resources to actually make it. It is essentially an idyllic family picnic scene, with every last possible bit of it bound in cloth – mummified, so to speak. The binding is at once loving in its preservation but sadistic; it’s the opposition I really wanted, such a precious, delicate, universal moment kept in place so forcefully.
There is a sense of nostalgia and loss, almost a contemporary relic, how things should be or once were but have long since left us. Certain angles of arms and legs are actually almost ‘noosed’ into place – there is a sense of controlling panic about it – this is how happiness should look and such. I’m very interested in our relationship with memories, objects, our emotional attachments to them, and our attempts to preserve, keep safe.
Enjoy It While It Lasts by Marcus Lanyon

BS: Can you tell our readers about your background. When did you know that you wanted to be an artist? Where did you study? Who were your mentors and early influences?

ML: Well, it’s a very mixed bag. I initially started out as an actor, then became a musician (bands such as my solo project Tarantella Serpentine and for a brief time with Sheep On Drugs) and then I finally found my real passion in art. I still act, play & DJ of course. I’d always seen myself as an artist though, I was always too peripatetic to stick to one particular tag, so I’d always envisioned ending up as an artist. I took my undergraduate degree at the University of Gloucestershire and my Masters at the Royal College of Art, London.

In terms of mentors and influences, when I was young there were two that really seeped into my head. The painter Robert Lenkiewicz was a friend of the family and his ways were of great interest to me; he was a complete bibliophile and I used to spend hours in his library whilst he worked. He had a very particular view of the world, which I didn’t always agree with but that analytical, debated angle he had influenced me strongly. There are some great stories about him too, as he was such a character but that’s for another time.
The other was my grandfather Peter Lanyon, the painter, who I also absorbed through books as he died in 1964 (and who bizarrely met Lenkiewicz as a young man a few weeks before he died), but his ways of working, thinking and seeing were fascinating, especially when it is a blood relation like that.
Enjoy It While It Lasts (detail) by Marcus Lanyon

BS: Aside from influences... what else motivates you to keep working?

ML: There isn’t a motivating factor as such; I just have to do it. No choice in the matter.

BS: Marcus, can you go into further detail about your personal philosophy in regards to art and artistic creation?

ML: We are at an interesting point now, especially the British art scene. My generation certainly have really moved away from that whole YBA fuck-off advertising aesthetic and I’ve noticed a sincere resurgence of quieter, more considered approaches. I’m certainly part of that. I’ve said before I’m far more interested in the whisper than the shout. Whilst I value ‘shock’ as a reaction, due to the fact that it proves you still care, I’m far more interested in discussing the ‘unpleasant’, in its widest sense, than using it as the visual element per se.

In terms of artistic creation, well, whatever suits what I’m doing. If it needs assistants or if I have to hire someone or I need to take a course to work out how to do it myself, then there you go. I do need to get my paws dirty though, I couldn’t be completely hands off.
Enjoy It While It Lasts (detail) by Marcus Lanyon

BS: Marcus, I'm certain that you have been very busy lately. Have you found it difficult to find balance between your recent success and remaining devoted to your artistic process?

ML: Well, its fine once you stop drinking all the damned free wine! But seriously, you just level out with it really; you have to maintain a certain impetus and focus and make sure you have someone standing next to you to poke you in the eye when you start acting like a twat.

BS: Marcus, tell us about your studio. Where do you work? Do you follow a routine or do you work in a sporadic manner?

ML: I’m currently moving studios actually. It is generally an organised mess, with lots of stuff knocking around and very loud music playing. I work in north London. It’s sparky and full of character, so to speak. I don’t follow a routine as such; when I’m working its generally for short, very intense periods – I work very quickly by nature and a lot of my processes are manually repetitive or really, really detailed and fiddly. Hopefully the passion and the deadline don’t bump into each other and have a nasty fight over clocking-in and getting paid the right amount of overtime.

BS: How do you start a piece? Do you draw up plans? Do you write it out? Tell us a little about the process itself.

ML: Almost without fail they arrive in a sort of vision. I just see them like a scene from a film and do my best to get to that image. Otherwise they develop from writing. I really don’t draw much, so I just write, write, write instead or start sticking bits of stuff together. Much more satisfying for me. But then sometimes I can get sucked into a painting or a really focused line drawing and I’m having a whale of a time, so I’m a bit of a contradiction. In my view, everything I make is part of some huge narrative, so I perceive my own practice as chapters in a book, moving forward but interdependent and responsive to everything that preceded it.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the art world?

ML: If you don’t know what you are doing, then stop bloody doing it.
You can learn more about Marcus Lanyon by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

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