Words that bind


                  Seascape, John Lyons (oil on wood)

I think of the turbulent sea
        I think of fierce flames on
the burning white sand
        I think of sunrise and sunset
of spheres and circles
        of the beauty of wood
its rough surface to which
        the paint clings

I think of pools of light
        and the beauty of colour
and how surfaces entice
        I think of the calm waves
after the storm subsides
        I think of soft clouds
that gather on the horizon
        and how every image
is an image of other images
        just as one love echoes another

I think of words that move
        back and forth—words
that bind the world together
        words that once bound
you and I together
        in a single breath

John Lyons



                      Underworld, John Lyons (80 x 60 cm, oil on canvas)

And so I continue
        to map out my map
this is my world
        your world too
a world of colour
        of land and sea
and time and distance
        and a chance to know
where we stand and
        where we come from

All the time I’m thinking
        of textures and one hue
overlaying another and
        the currents created
by different brush strokes
        the transition from warm
to cold and light to dark
        and I know too that
in the future all this
        will be buried beneath
skeins of black and white
        applied at random and
as the mood takes me
        My under painting
is intended to be
        an underworld
a crude organisation
an orchestrated chaos
        a warm living breathing
world in which all things
        are possible including
peace including justice
        and including love

John Lyons

A world view

                Worldmappe, John Lyons (80 x 60 cm, oil on canvas)

A view of the world

        an artist’s impression
how I see it
        drawn from memory
some anomalies
        some distortions
some aspects
        out of proportion
basic and schematic
        a work of fiction
based on the loosest
        of all possible perceptions
I’m not a satellite
        I’m located somewhere
within these dimension
        it’s a self-portrait

Apart from the ocean
        the colours are notional
this is how I work
        creating an underpainting
with a clear narrative
        the north and south
of my knowledge
        and nothing left to chance

These words are a draft
        of other words as yet
        In the final painting
earth pigments will abound
        actions will be recorded
representational actions
        and the canvas will be
stained forever
        my right hand holding
a thin stick will trace
        the motion of currents
around this two-dimensional
        globe upon which the sun
appears to always shine
        I cannot literally
paint on your wall
        much as I would love to
this is the best I can do 
        : hang it !

John Lyons

Tilled earth


                         Land, John Lyons (70 x 50 cm, oil on canvas)

The tilled earth
arable land worked
by ploughing and sowing
raising crops
out of which all life

Where the light falls
where the rain too
growth under ground
and in the air
that sustains us all

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