Henri Matisse

40 x 40_Dance of light
                   Matisse, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

Blue is
        the colour

With one leap
        and a bound

Matisse entered
        the room

Matisse means

John Lyons


Tangled web

Tangled web, John Lyons (70 x 50 cm, oil and enamel paint on canvas)

We have been 
over this ground
a thousand times
she said

This is the tangled web
we have woven—
a landscape 
in which we can
barely distinguish
the wood for the trees

John Lyons

Just like love

Venetian red

             Venetian red, John Lyons (40 x 40, oil on canvas)

Out of the red earth
        a light warm pigment
from pure ferric oxide
        the iron in the blood
of Renaissance art
        used with lime white
to create skin tones
        faces and hands
and naked bodies

Here in the background
        to an embryonic study
of a human head
        a first pass over
the main features
        to relay the exacting
geometry of eyes
        forehead chin nose
and mouth : a synthesis
        like all art — statement
and understatement
        observation and adjustment
much like life
        much like love

John Lyons

How Beautiful You Are

Art or a shared thought
        a certain fixed combination
of words or shapes
        or numbers in a mathematical
formula : a theorem or
        a theory

How when they are captured
        they transcend time and space —
the eternal curves of the lines
        presented on canvas
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
        that transport us to 1907
and beyond

They mixed pigments
        by the fireside
before daubing the walls : later
        panels or cloth stretched
on a frame that allowed
        the walls to be transported

Is it the heart
        or the mind that delights
in infinite things ?
        Let’s call them
death cheaters

        The music of the spheres
harmony abounds
        and our senses
soak it all up

How beautiful the nightingale
        How beautiful the Grecian Urn
Autumn fields heavy with dew
        The cold North
and the warm South
        The drowsy Mediterranean

How beautiful the body
        How beautiful life
How beautiful love
        How beautiful the air
we breathe    How beautiful
        you are

John Lyons

Highly recommended, The Cloud of Witness a retrospective of paintings by Keith Cunningham at the Newport Street Gallery till 21 August 2022. Free admission.

Bones of the earth

                   Face detail in earth pigments, John Lyons

That constant urge

        to create—to re-present
the world around us
        upon stretched cloth
that grows in the fields
        daubed with silica and clay
with manganese
        and hydrated iron oxide

We carry these pigments
        in our bones
we who have sprung
        from the very bones
of the earth
        all the hardness
and the softness
        of our bodies
and our eyes
        devouring everything
we see
        shape and colour
texture and weight
        our lives a constant
        of what it means
to be and to live
        and to love

John Lyons

Portrait of the artist

Revised face
               Face, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

I know this face
        from somewhere
those piercing eyes
        looking out from the canvas

There have been subtle shifts
        since it last appeared
alterations in the tone—
        the cadmium red sharpened
the yellow ochre lightened
        the titanium white
slightly buffed to lower
        the intensity

I think of this study
        as a field or a terrain
out of which an image
        emerges organically
much as though
        it were alive

I like the uneven
        surface of the land
the imperfections
        the different shades
and tones

a face from the earth
        and of the earth
dust of my dust
        which once was

John Lyons

Landscape with blue sky

Landscape with blue sky, John Lyons (70 x 50 cm, oil on canvas) 

The fact is
        that anything goes
as along as boundaries
        are respected
that is to say
        the sun and the blue sky
remain above the fields
        and farm buildings

Paintings are colourscapes
        full of hints and suggestions
Renaissance nativities or crucifixions
        have become easy on the eye
imagine now a stage upon which
        reds and yellows and blues
and whites dance freely
        and follow nothing but
the most basic rules :
        seek and you shall find 

John Lyons

Love’s bone structure

third detail
          Third detail, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

The high cheekbones
        the shape of the eyes
the thin smile
        the unobtrusive ears
the slender neck
        her supple feet

The feet of a dancer
        trained to pace the floor
with dignity and poise
        a frame upon which
fabrics sat elegantly
        could bear the weight
of primary colours
        had she found
someone to love
        she might have
loved him forever
        dearly deeply

John Lyons

The promised land

further detail
  Further detail, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

The colour of my words

        set against a dark grid
behind which the light
        struggles to be seen

So many horizons
        a maze of directions
that twist and turn
        bound by the canvas

My heart has become
        a plaything in her hands
she speaks of paradise but
        denies me the promised land

John Lyons

Love’s hard lines

minor detail
          Minor detail, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Figment done
        in pigment :
the devil
        is in the detail
a composition
        to raise a hue
and cry

If you must have it
        at least let me see
the colour
        of your money

Here there is
        light and darkness
within the geometry
        of chaos

A representation
        of mood
of a life lived
        on the hoof
a mere hint at
        the hard lines
of the love left
        in her wake

John Lyons