Paul Spooner reviews a refreshingly new exhibition in Falmouth, Cornwall.
The result of collaborations with singers, dancers, actors and other creative types, this show is designed to help answer the oft asked and ofter avoided question; Where do you get your ideas from??
The answer is embedded in the 47 large sheets of plywood that Andrew Lanyon has shifted into Falmouth Art Gallery, erecting them around the walls of two rooms to form a zig-zagging labyrinth. It took him and his pals more than a week to put up and the effort cost him a significant proportion of his own bodyweight. Each sheet has one or more windows cut into it through which one can view scenes and objects, some of them activated by pulling on strings emerging from the fronts of the panels.
There’s a painting called ‘Self-portrait as Somebody Else’ at the beginning of the sequence, which the innocent visitor might take as the key to the rest of the show.
Andrew invents people; some of them are only partly fictitious- several of them coexist with human beings whom one can find living and breathing in Cornwall. Foremost among these compounds is Ambrose Fortescue, whose work excavating the remains of fairy civilisations has been documented in several films. He has also been known to invent his own fictitious characters. In his current incarnation, Fortescue makes himself at home within the hollows of statues in town squares from which vantage points he becomes the mouthpiece for his author’s ideas about inventiveness. Fortescue’s flesh and blood alter ego is Dave Slater, well worth a visit in his own right.
All this is explained in the books which accompany the exhibition. As is normal in Andrew’s ever-expanding universe of thought, this show is about one-third larger than when it was first planned so he had to write another book to cover the extra material. They are very much the books of the show- pretty well every exhibit is pictured in one or other of them. The first, chunkier volume, with the same title as the exhibition, explores the formation of ideas in a metaphorical discursive manner. The second volume; ‘Bifurcated thought’, is a quicker read and allows the reader to form the impression that he or she has grasped something of the author’s creative expeditions. Or one can take the scenic route by looking at the pictures.
Andrew’s gift is his ability to find and reassemble material, whether discovered in his own mind, in the works of other people or in the material world. An admirer of Max Ernst’s collages, his mission is to ‘get it right’?, as Ernst always does (Cornell only sometimes manages it, in Lanyon’s opinion). Some delicious examples can be seen in this show; this one, for example, uses standard surreal elements ( woman’s mouth, cutting from french newspaper) to make a perfectly alarming image.
More complex is ‘Fortescue’s Room’?, made from punched paper, sycamore seeds, fake crocodile skin, lead solder, oyster shell, aluminium foil and a sheet of rabbit skin glue as well as a thing made from plastic blobs stuck on wires that may be imitation mistletoe. Light shines eerily through the glue and the shell.Through some of the windows in the panels one can see works commissioned from local automata makers. There are also works by artists whose work is movement-free. All of it, though, amounts to a giant assemblage made from ideas, people and objects by a man whose favourite word, judging from his latest book, is ‘protean’?.
The Only Non-slip Dodo Mat in the World Paperback 132 pages.
BIFURCATED THOUGHT Paperback 60 pages.
Both books are available from the Falmouth Art Gallery for £10 each + post & packing.
Show ends 1 Feb
The Only Non-slip Dodo Mat in the World
More about Andrew Lanyon including collector’s versions of his books at www.andrewlanyon.com