Colin Lanceley: Earthly Delights

Australian artist and teacher Colin Lanceley (1938-2015) lived, breathed and made art. This exhibition, ‘Colin Lanceley: Earthly Delights’ curated by Sioux Garside presents a comprehensive survey of Colin Lanceley’s lifetime of work from his early years as a student at East Sydney Technical College, now known as the National Art School (NAS), and traversing several decades of his artistic practice. The exhibition is on at NAS Gallery until 13 August.

“I love art. I love to make it. I love to look at it. I love to read about it. I love to think about it. I love to talk about it.” – Colin Lanceley, 1970s

Colin Lanceley, 2010. Photograph: Paul Green. Courtesy NAS Gallery

Lanceley’s oeuvre includes beautifully crafted sculptures, extraordinary large-scale collaged and sculptural abstract paintings, and drawings in ink, colour pencil and crayon on paper that draw audiences into overtly colour-saturated imaginations of the landscape, both natural and built as well as lakes, rivers, and harbours that often reflect on the artist’s connection to the Illawarra Region of the NSW South Coast.

I’m a colourist, you know, people like Patrick Heron and Matisse and so on, we all come out of the same colourist tradition. Maybe if colour didn’t exist, maybe if just that luxuriant vibrancy about paint didn’t exist, painting wouldn’t have been grabbed by beauty and sensuality – Lanceley.

Lanceley had a long and devoted association with the National Art School beginning in the 1950s. In 1964 he won the Helena Rubenstein Travelling Art Scholarship that led him and his wife Kay to Italy and then London where they lived for 17 years. They returned to Australia in 1981, Lanceley taught at NAS and in 1996 he became Chair of the NAS Advisory Board and he played an integral role in the school’s transformation to becoming an independent studio-based tertiary art school where drawing and printmaking were deemed as important as painting and sculpture.

In 2002 he was awarded the inaugural NAS Fellowship, the art school’s highest honour. Steven Alderton, Director and CEO National Art School writes in the exhibition catalogue that “Lanceley dedicated himself to underwriting our future, which has enabled us to continue providing generations of students with an inspiring, rigorous art education.”

The light fantastic (after Carlo Crivelli), 2003, oil on carved wood and canvas. Marc Sassella and Paul Ridgeway Collection. Photograph: Kirsty Francis

“I loved being a student at the National Art School,” Lanceley said in an interview in Artist Profile magazine in 2015. “It was the opening of my life, really, because I was learning what I wanted to learn in a milieu that was created by a whole lot of artists.”

Featuring over 40 artworks, both large and small, drawn from private collections and major institutions from around the country, ‘Colin Lanceley: Earthly Delights’ fills the entire lower and upper levels of NAS Gallery with an uplifting presentation of the artists technicolour expressions of the way he saw the world, the beauty, wonder, and awe of it.

His creative explorations and artistic output was both inspired and paralleled by his passion for modernism, poetry, classical music, literature, and of course everything to do with art. He was ahead of the times in his use of found and collected objects that populate many of his works, which he repurposed, giving the most mundane relics of discarded ephemera new life in vibrant colour, form and story.

Everything from vintage jewellery to various pieces of plastic, tiny toys, metal bits and bobs, including bottle tops and the flattened foil caps of old-style milk bottles, to the peeled back lid of a sardine can – its key still intact, and the objects he carved in wood, painted, and assembled in sculptural form on canvas.

The fall of Icarus, 1985, oil on carved wood and canvas. Courtesy of the Parliament House Art Collection, Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra ACT. Photograph: Kirsty Francis

Lanceley exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions locally, nationally, and on the international stage throughout his career. Two commissioned public art works in Sydney; a marvellous painting invigorates the domed ceiling of the Lyric Theatre; and a magical underwater floor mural in the children’s pool at Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, both shine a light on the scope of Lanceley’s exceptional creative talent and vision and how he worked art and architecture together with deep consideration for the spatial and visual experience of the viewer from every possible angle.

“Colin Lanceley invites viewers to lose themselves in his astonishing and joyous visions that meld the strange and the familiar and stir unexpected intellectual and emotional responses. We are delighted to host this exhibition that honours the man and his work, a timely reminder for those familiar with his brilliance, and a comprehensive introduction for those who are not,” says NAS Director and CEO Steven Alderton. Don’t miss it!

NAS Gallery is located at the National Art School in Darlinghurst in the grounds of the historical Darlinghurst Gaol and is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 5pm.