Colin Lanceley AO was a New Zealand born, Australian artist known for his large three-dimensional paintings and for his drawing and printmaking. His works are held in public collections worldwide including the Tate the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He was the inaugural chair of the advisory board of the National Art School and a board member of the National Gallery of Australia.
Lanceley left school at the age of 16, and was apprenticed as a colour photographic engraver in the printing industry. While working, he attended North Sydney Technical College evening art classes taught by Peter Laverty. He enrolled in the Art Diploma course at East Sydney Technical College, graduating 1960.
In 1961, together with fellow East Sydney graduates Mike Brown and Ross Crothall, Lanceley formed the Annandale Imitation Realists, producing collaborative collages incorporating found objects. Their work was exhibited at Melbourne’s Museum of Modern Art and in Sydney at the Rudy Komon Gallery. Lanceley also continued to work independently on mixed media collage paintings. Notable works of this period include The Greatest Show on Earth (1963), and Icarus I (1965) and this piece Pianist, Pianist, Where are You? (1965)
In 1964, Lanceley won the Helena Rubinstein Travelling Scholarship and the following year, together with his future wife Kay Morphett and her two children, he sailed for Europe to see its great works of art. After a brief stay in Tuscany with art critic Robert Hughes they moved to London, where they stayed for the next 16 years.
In developing his style of three-dimensional paintings, Lanceley absorbed the influence of the Modernists in art, and drew inspiration also from the poetry of T.S.Elliot and the music of Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky. In 1966 he was signed by British contemporary art gallery, Malborough Fine Art, which gave him his first London exhibition, curated by Jasia Reichardt, who also showed him in New York. Notable works of this early London period, described by Robert Hughes as “transitional”, included Icarus II (1966), The Miraculous Mandarin (1966) and Atlas (1967). He also worked with printmaker Chris Prater at Kelpra Studios and in 1976 had a solo exhibition of his prints at the Tate Gallery.
From 1967, Lanceley and his family spent their summers in Europe, principally in Spain. A major influence at this time was the artist Joan Miro, who visited his London studio. Notable works of this period included The Object of All Travel Is to Arrive at the Shores of the Mediterranean (1971–72) and The Lark Ascending (1978). He twice won the Krakow Biennale prize for prints. His work was increasingly concerned with landscape, a turning point being Chablis (1980–81).
In the UK, he taught part-time at the Bath Academy of Art and then at Chelsea College of Arts, where his colleagues included Howard Hodgkin, Patrick Caulfield and other artists.
Throughout these years Lanceley continued to visit Australia periodically for exhibitions of his work. In 1981, following another extended visit to Europe during which he received the Europe Prize for Painting in Belgium, he finally returned to Australia.
Back in Australia, Lanceley brought his European experience to bear on his depictions of landscape and the unseen human presence within it. Notable paintings included What Images Return (1981–82), Where Three Dreams Cross Between Blue Rocks (Blue Mountains) (1983), The Fall of Icarus (1985), Songs of a Summer Night (Lynne’s Garden) (1985) and Midwinter Spring (James’ Garden) (1986).
In 1987 he was given a solo survey exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and in the same year a book on his work was published with an introduction by Robert Hughes. In 1988 ABC Television produced a documentary, Colin Lanceley: Poetry of Place, directed by Andrew Saw.
Awards followed: the Order of Australia (1990), a Creative Arts Fellowship (a Keating government initiative) (1991), an invitation to deliver the Lloyd Rees Memorial Lecture (1993), and appointment to the council of trustees of the National Gallery of Australia (1994). In 1993 his exhibition at Sherman Galleries was opened by then Prime Minister Paul Keating.
Lanceley had returned with the idea of what a great art school could be, a place where students in all disciplines were taught by experienced practising artists. He advised Bob Carr, who became premier of New South Wales in 1995, on the transformation of his alma mater, the East Sydney Technical College, which was made independent of the TAFE system and transformed into the National Art School. In 1997, Lanceley became the first Chair of its Advisory Board, serving in an honorary capacity, for more than two years.
New York dealer Allan Frumkin visited Sydney and held solo exhibitions of his work in New York in 1986 and 1993. In 1991 he was invited to lecture during an exhibition of his work at the Arts Club of Chicago, and in 2001 at the New York Studio School.
From the early 1990s Lanceley accepted a number of commissions. In collaboration with architect Philip Cox he designed mosaics for the Sydney International Aquatic Centre, Homebush (1994) and painted the ceiling of the later demolished Lyric Theatre, Sydney (1998). In Melbourne he created a large glass work for the County Court of Victoria (2002).
In the 2000s he exhibited for several years with Stuart Purves’s Australian Galleries. Major works of this period included Burning Bright (Big Top) (2005), and Firebird (Stravinsky) (2006).
In a late interview with his old friend, Alex Mitchell, he expressed his belief in the mission of the artist to be released from the restraints of the culture around him and explore an idea which transcends that and allow the transmission of ideas and sensations and feelings from one person to another… to move somebody so that it’s changed their view of the world.
In 2022 the National Art School celebrated his life’s work with the exhibition Colin Lanceley : Earthly Delights
Lanceley’s papers are held in the Research Library and Archive of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Reference: Biographical Notes courtesy Wikipedia