The Tetley, Leeds

I visited The Tetley today and was impressed by the space and ambience. It's a centre for contemporary art, housed in the former 1931 Tetley Brewery headquarters. The heritage of Tetley’s was still very evident, the original features of the building have been retained - lots of oak panelling and a boardroom with chandeliers.

There's a very accommodating cafe/bar (selling cask Tetley's I'm glad to say) where the service and coffee were good - open from 9am to 11pm. The main space for the art is white and minimal - on display: "Downtime" a sculptural installation by Ben Cain and "Skittish" by Lisa Watts and Samara Scott - "a dense scenery of shapes, smells and forms through her use of unconventional materials - everyday objects stretched to their upmost capabilities". Various oak panelled rooms were housing smaller satellite installations/exhibitions.

As ever, with most "contemporary art" I feel like I'm missing something if I don't understand the concept by the visual alone and then have to read a small thesis on what the "art" is about. Should the audience have to work harder than the artist to gain anything from what is on display? Does the "art" even need an audience to be relevant?

However, Leeds definitely needs this important space and I'm proud to have it on my doorstep. I'll definitely be visiting again - art and beer in one place! What more could I ask for?

David Lyon – Orso Major Interview

I was recently interviewed by Gita Joshi, director at Orso Major Art Gallery where a selection of my work is currently available. 

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

To create, in particular drawing and painting, is my vocation. I didn't choose to do this, it chose me, and so the compulsion to create is inspirational in itself. To make marks on paper, canvas and board is good enough reason and my driving force. If you then add into the equation the ideas that take hold of the imagination, the things that resonate (in my case biology, poetry, music), the dreams and nightmares, aesthetics, an appreciation of the rustic, the imperfect, the decayed, the melancholic appeal of transient beauty, then you have more than inspiration you have a way of life. This is reflected in the many ways I choose to work, from the joyful, exuberant, vibrant, colourful paintings to the subdued, textural abstracts and darker figure studies.

What Medium do you work in and what are its challenges?

I work primarily in oil pastel, crayon, ink, charcoal and acrylic.

Oil pastel has such an intensity of colour that it is therapy itself to work with. I dissolve it with white spirit to achieve larger, flatter areas, which I can then work into with more pastel or crayon.

Charcoal is very messy but I've started to incorporate that into my work. I found some charcoal pencils not long ago that have a beautiful rich blackness to them so I bought in bulk.

The drying time of acrylic paint can be a challenge but I've learnt how to exploit its properties - wiping, scratching, sanding, transferring, concealing and revealing. It's a remarkably versatile medium in that it can be as subtle as watercolour (good for glazing) but dries as hard as nails.

What is your art about?

My art is about discovery, realisation, beauty, the passing of time, attempting to make permanent what is, inevitably, impermanent. It's about communication, alerting others and myself to the world around us. It's about seeing things in a different way, the things that we wouldn't notice ordinarily. It's about the absolute magic of being alive and the awareness of the potential inside every one of us.

What are you doing when you are not making art?

Living my life in as simple a way as possible.

Which film have you watched most recently and found inspirational?

There are so many films that I've enjoyed and found inspirational. The film "Pollock" has stayed with me over the years - a great performance by Ed Harris. I just wanted to get into the studio and draw and paint immediately after I'd seen it. But there are other more subtle stories that linger. I recently stumbled across 'Everyday' with John Simm and Shirley Henderson, which I thought was wonderful. Filmed over a period of five years the children in the film family grow before us as they adapt to life with/without a father who is imprisoned. Very moving and beautifully shot.

How often do you exhibit?

When it's logistically possible and I feel that my work needs an outing. It can look astoundingly different in a new space.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Nothing out of the ordinary. People showing their interest and appreciation by buying a piece of work is memorable.

What is your creative process like?

I would say that my creativity is part of a process that is firmly embedded in my psyche. I've learnt that it has shaped me and that it has always been present and dictates how I respond to the world. Mysteriously certain things grab my attention which I then have to do something about in a new and interesting way. I make notes but I've probably no need as I carry the idea around in my head anyway. Sometimes ideas don't make it - I may see it somewhere else or the idea may prove to be derivative, similar to another artist's work. I try to be as original as I can and to have faith in my own ideas although it's impossible not to be in awe of certain past masters and learn from their unique vision.

Do you ever experience creative blocks?

Yes I do. There are times in a life when events overwhelm and we are distracted or temporarily unable to adapt to our situation. Certain things take time to process. I find that to create with honesty, integrity and authenticity I have to be free of any emotional burden. I need to be calm and unshackled. But you can't have the light without the dark, the pleasure without the pain. I've learnt that most processes are cyclical or at least have peaks and troughs, difficult though it is to accommodate.

How many pieces are you working on at any one time?

I work on larger pieces one at a time. But I like to surround myself in the studio with my work as it informs the piece I'm working on.

What would be your dream project?  

I've just been reading briefly about Matisse's commission to design the stained glass for The Chapel of the Rosary in Vence on the French Riviera. I bet that was a lovely job to work on - all that light and colour - although, like Matisse, I have no religious inclination. I'd love to make art that enriched people's lives on a daily basis - so in a public space. I've always loved the glass ceiling in The Victoria Quarter in Leeds designed by Brian Clarke - again light and brilliant colour even on a dull day in Yorkshire.

Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about?

I'm currently working on my summer exhibition - August to October - at The Bexley Gallery in St. James's Hospital, Leeds. It's the entrance to the cancer wing designed in such a way that it's full of light and space. There are certain criteria to exhibiting given the nature of the building, so I'm working on the “Wildflower” series that I'm increasing in size to four feet by three from the original sketches. My aim is to fill the space with life affirming colour, pieces that visitors and patients will hopefully find optimistic and joyful.


David Lyon at Orso Major Art Gallery, Waterloo, London

I'm pleased to announce that from this week a selection of my work will be available at Orso Major Art Gallery, a contemporary gallery showcasing affordable, collectible art with a focus on mixed media, located in the heart of Waterloo, London.  Check out their on-line gallery

Address: 19 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London SE1 7RJ.

Opening Hours: Monday: Closed Tuesday - Friday: 11.00 – 18.00 Saturday: 11.00 – 14.00 Sunday: Closed