Friday, August 04, 2006

Moon Quay

After the War, Peter Lanyon returned to Cornwall and developed his semi-abstract paintings which recreate his experience of the local landscape in time and space. Meanwhile Terry Frost, who had begun painting as a P.O.W., settled in St. Ives and met Lanyon there. Between 1947 and 1950 Frost was studying under Victor Pasmore at Camberwell and developed an abstract style based on geometric shapes. Back in Cornwall, he got to discover the landscape with Lanyon, who drove Frost ‘all over the place, along the coast and up the moors.’ In a 1993 interview Frost explained how Lanyon ‘taught me to experience landscape… so you lay down in the landscape, you looked up in a tree… you walked over the landscape so that you understood its shape, you looked behind rocks so that you knew what their shape was all the way round and what lay behind them...’ The resulting paintings resemble Lanyon’s work at the time, but Frost’s are generally more precise and less expressionist, with the canvases divided into coloured shapes that seem to represent fragments of landscape - an example is Moon Quay (1950), based on the experience of walking from his house on Quay Street in St Ives. Frost was self-deprecating about his approach. Whereas, Lanyon ‘roared into his drawing’, Frost himself ‘was very tight-arsed because of Camberwell… I walked round and round, trying to draw the experience of the landscape in a single moving line’ (quotes from Chris Stephens’ book Terry Frost). It is intriguing to compare these two painters’ approaches as they looked for ways to fix in two dimensions their memories of four-dimensional landscape experience.

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