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

Working the land

       Land, John Lyons (40 x 40 cm, oil on canvas)

Think of it thus
as a garden
as a small plot of land
the soil recently
turned in preparation
for a new crop

In the artist’s mind
the seeds may already
have been sown

Who knows what
may appear—a portrait
of a face once beloved
or a landscape remembered
with affection or
some other grand gesture

Earth colours
will be applied —
this too is the work
of sunlight
and what is born here
will live forever

John Lyons 

Frank Auerbach – a sketch

Frank Auerbach
Frank Auerbach – self-portrait

Frank Auerbach – a sketch

An artist sees
          and listens
and listening sees
          the unseen
and vision becomes speech
          and speech becomes
lines and strokes and swathes 
           of chalk and charcoal
delicately smudged
          with the tip of the finger
turning the darkness into light
          and listening all the time
to what is seen and
          seeing all the time
what is heard
          applying the alphabets
of sound and shape
          dividing the darkness
with fragments of light
          seizing the energies
of expression and posture
          driven by the instinctive
desire to uncover the truthness
          the emotional hardcore truth
that lies behind the mask
          of careless inattention
or superficial appraisal :
          more than in dialogue
with the subject
          the artist teases identity
out into the open
          with gentle interrogations
striving constantly to achieve
          an ultimate rendering
not an essence
          not a resumé
not a replica
          neither a duplicate
simply a completeness
          of visual presence
that stands and speaks
          for itself

John Lyons

The Frank Auerbach Exhibition at Tate Britain in Pimlico, runs until 13 March 2016. Unmissable.