John Lyons, Painter, Poet, Illustrator

Artist_John_Lyons [V+A 14-12-18] Courtes

Trinidad & Tobago is my country of birth. Having lived there to full adulthood, I carry within me a strong influence of its culture. It is the cultural and spiritual source which informs my creative vision as a painter and poet.


Furthermore, I think the act of painting can, with no doubt in my mind, lay claim to be using a language with its unique syntax. As a means of expression, it has at its disposal the visual elements of colour, line, shape, texture and a notional, two- dimensional space (any surface plane: wall, canvas, board, paper, etc.) of a certain proportion. The arrangement of these elements, in my view, could be regarded as using a visual linguistic syntax, which could be so disposed as to express something recognizable or familiar, as in a painting with an aim to faithfully represent something.


However, this visual syntax could be distorted creatively to produce unfamiliar, abstract or semi-abstract imagery that challenges the imagination of the viewer. This approach appeals to me. It allows me a freedom to respond to the promptings of intuition; the will to play with the ambiguities of forms, often morphing one into another and defining improbable perspectives and shapes on the canvas. This way of working lends itself to the creation of an iconography that evokes suggestions of an imaginative, surreal world of visual storytelling. I do often begin with a feeling, a memory of what I want to express, but I surrender my will to intuition and a dialogue with the work being painted.


In the catalogue of Behind the Carnival, one of my major touring exhibitions in 1992, Adrian Henry, the celebrated painter and poet, wrote , “…the best argument for ‘Black Art’ is that some practitioners, like John Lyons, produce work that is good by any standard, doesn’t rely on double standards or positive discrimination, or guilt on the part of a white audience, to make its effect.”