John Lyons is a genuine renaissance man- a truly wonderful visual artist, an accomplished poet, a talented saxophone player, a great friend and a cook worthy of his own Channel 4 show. I’ve known John for many years and he is all of those things.

 

Craig Kerrecoe, Managing Director

Red Dot Events Ltd

Read the full interview

About John

As a Trinidadian born painter and poet, John has practised visual arts since 1959 following his studies first
at London's Goldsmiths College, School of Art, and then at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Evidence of his creative involvement to date: six published poetry collections, an illustrated cookery book with foodie poems, several national poetry prizes, including the Peterloo Poetry Competition, inclusion on the Poetry Archive, creative writing tutoring, and readings in major festivals.

 

Taken together, John's paintings and poetry combine his creative skills to make an influential contribution to the cultural artistic paradigm in Britain today. His work mirrors life in our diverse society and may be found in children's and adult's poetry publications, in prestigious A.C.E. sponsored exhibitions, in the Arts Council Collection, the Victoria & Albert Word and Image Print Collection, and as a WindRush Arts Achiever in the No Colour Bar Exhibition at the City of London Guild Hall Gallery.

 

  Literary CV

 

Windrush Award Winner, Arts Achiever of the Year 2003

Co-Founder and Trustee: Hourglass Educational Arts Development Services: HEADS  2000 - 2010

 

Professional membership:

 

The Poetry Archive

The Poetry Society
Poetry Library
National Association of Writers in Education
The Society of Authors

Member of EAW (East Anglia Writers)

 

Professional positions:

 

2010 - Adjudicator Cambridge Writers Short Story competition

2002 - External Examiner M.Phil, Anglia Polytechnic University

2000 - Adjudicator Co-operative Insurance Christmas card competition

1998 - Adjudicator Conwy Festival Poetry Competition.

1996 - Member of the Board of Directors, Signature Book Presentation Ltd.

1994 - Member of Management Committee for the Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank

1994 - Review writer for SCRIPT the Poetry Society Critical Service

1992 - Adjudicator for the Lancaster Festival Poetry Competition

1991/8 - Part-time tutor for creative writing Combined Studies. BA Hons Bolton Inst. of Higher Education

1991 - Adjudicator, Southern Arts Poetry Prize

1989 - Co-editor, Northern Poetry, Littlewood Press

 

Poetry readings:

 

One hundred and sixty-two readings since 1985. The following is a selection:

 

2015 – No Colour Bar, New Beacon Bookshop Installation, Guildhall Gallery, London

2015 – Cane Arrow Press, book launch, Poetry Library, South Bank Centre.

2015 – Found in Translation, Vinopolis, Cambridge

2015 – Pop-up Lit. Fest. South Bank Centre, 'Dancing in the Rain' children's book launch.

2015 – Fenland Reed, Babylon Arts, Ely

2014 –The Bishop's Residence, Ely

2012 - Oxfam reading with Myra Schneider, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University

2012 - Black History Month, Apex Gallery, Bury St . Edmunds

2012 – 'John Agard and Friends' Hommerton College, Cambridge University, Caribbean Poetry

Conference

2012 - British Library, 'Whoop & Shout' with Val Bloom

2012 - The Tricycle Theatre, London, 50th anniversary of Trinidad & Tobago Independence

2012 - 'Guest Reader', Manky Poets, Manchester

2011 - Poetry in Palmers Green, London

2011 - Punters Cambridge, fund raising for Jimmy Shelter, Cambridge

2011 - Hot Numbers Jazz Cafe with Josh Ison, saxophonist

2010 - Manchester Literature Festival, book launch, 'Red'

2010 - Moving Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

2010 - CB1 Poetry , Cambridge with Mario Petrucci, Michaelhouse, Cambridge

2010 - Book Launch, 'Cook-Up in a Trini Kitchen, Trinidad & Tobago High Commission, London

2010 - British Museum, celebrating the Akan Drum with Jean Binta Breeze

2010 - Williams Art Gallery, Cambridge

2010 - Sheffield Food Festival, reading from 'Cook-Up in a Trini Kitchen'

2010 - Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, West Yorkshire

2009 - Babylon Gallery, Ely, National Poetry Day

2009 - Ely Library, 'No Apples in Eden' book launch with John Killick

2009 - Babylon Gallery, Ely, National Poetry Day

2007 - Maritime Museum in Greenwich with John Agard and Grace Nichols

2007 - Babylon Gallery, Ely with Andre Mangeot

2005 - Diarama Arts Centre, London

2005 - Three Cups Gallery, Ely

2004 - West Indian Centre, Manchester

2003 - Square Chapel, Halifax, West Yorkshire

2003 - Pennine Ink, Todmorden , West Yorkshire

2002 - Owl Book Shop, London: Book Launch: Moving Voices

2002 - Launch of new collection, 'Voices from a Silk-Cotton Tree: Hourglass Studio Gallery

2002 - Todmorden Pennine Ink: Poetry Reading

2002 - Manchester Central Library: Commonwealth Programme

2002 - The Albert Poets, Huddersfield

2001 - West Indian Centre, Manchester

2001 - BBC Greater Manchester Radio

2001 - Java Lounge, Hebden Bridge

2000 - Theatre Ardudwy, Harlech, Wales

2000 - Contact Theatre, Manchester

1999 - Project One to One

1998 - Linton Court Gallery

1997 - Ty Newydd, Wales

1997 - Southport Art Centre

1997 - Wrexham Art Centre

1996 - King of Hearts, Norwich

1995 - Aldeburgh Festival

1995 - Llangollen Library, Wales

1994 - Poets Give a Hand, The Royal Horticultural Hall, London

1994 - Manchester Poetry Festival

1994 - Cuirt Festival of Literature, Galway, Rep. of Ireland

1994 - Out of The Margins, Royal Festival Hall, South Bank with John Agard, Jean Binta Breez, Archie

 Markham

1993 - Wincham Hall, Northwich

1992 - The Lancaster Festival

1991 - Royal Court Theatre, London

1991 - Ty Newydd Centre, Wales

1990 - International Festival of Writing, Glasgow with James Berry

 

Conferences:

 

2012 Narrating The Caribbean Nation, Peepal Tree Press,  Leeds Metropolitan University

Title of Paper given:  Caribbean Literature, Orature and The Visual Arts

 

2012 Caribbean Poetry Project, Homerton College, Faculty of Education, Cambridge University

Title of paper given:  Approaches to teaching Caribbean Poetry

Residences and workshops:

 

One hundred and forty-seven workshops/residencies from 1986.
The following is a selection:

 

2015 – Creative Writing Poetry workshop, Canterbury Literature Festival

2012 - Creative Writing Workshop, poetry/prose, Ely Library

2011 - Creative Writing Workshop, poetry/prose, Ely Library

2010 - Peterborough Poetry Group, workshop on performance poetry

2010 - Vital Communities Project, Sutton Primary School

2009 - Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank co-tutoring with Roselle Angwin

2007 - Babylon Gallery co-tutoring with Andre Mangeot

2007 - Cambridge Caribbean Association, Cambridge

2006 - Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank, co-tutoring with Linda France

2006 - poetry workshop, co-tutoring with Doris Corti, Babylon Gallery, Ely

2005 - Sable / Arvon Poetry Master Class, Totleigh Barton, Devon.

2003 - The Big Book Project, Hereford Primary & Junior schools

2002 - Todmorden High School: Creative writing workshops

2002 - Institute of Education, London

2001 - Stretford High School, Manchester

2000 - Tate Gallery, Liverpool

2000 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, Hebden Bridge

1998 - Artranspennine 98, Tate Liverpool and Storey Institute Gallery, Lancaster.

1998 - 'Heart', Oldham Art Gallery.

1998 - Art Under The Microscope. Creative writing and visual art workshop, Storey Inst. Gallery Lancaster

1998 - Bryn Collen Primary, LLangollen

1998 – Ty Newydd (Welsh Arts Council Writing Centre)

1998 - Millane Primary School, Oxford.

1997 - Ty Newydd (Welsh Arts Council Writing Centre)

1997 - The Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank. A Course for writers of Caribbean, African and Asian Origin

1997 - Fallibroome High School

1997 - Manchester University, with post-graduate students

1996 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, poetry writing

1995 - Feb-July: Writer in Residence, The Dee valley, Wales

1995 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, poetry writing

1994 - Writer in Residence, Rawthorpe Infants and Junior Schools, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

1994 - Arvon tutor at Lumb Bank, poetry writing

1994 - Metropolitan University, Crew and Alsager campus

1993 - Poets in Schools with the IRIE DANCE CO. The Blackie, Liverpool

1992 - Arvon tutor at Totleigh Barton, Devon

1991 - Writer in Residence, Ingleborough Festival

1991 - Arvon tutor Lumb Bank

 

 Radio broadcasts:

2015 – Cambridge Radio 105, Book Mark

2014 – Cambridge Radio 105, Book Mark.

2003 - The Verb, Radio 3

2001 - GMR Peoples' Programme: Blacture Culture Month

1998 - GMR interview and poems celebrating WinndRush997 - Radio

1o 4, 'Poetry Bang'

1997 - The Peoples' Programme

1996 - Kaleidoscope (book review) Radio 4

1995 - Radio Wales Today

1994 - GMR Manchester Poets

1994 - RTE Dublin (during Cuirt Festival of Literature, Galway

1991 - Kaleidoscope Radio 4

1990 - BBC World Service

1989 - Kaleidoscope Radio 4

 

Television appearances;

 

1998 - BBC Learning Zone, The WindRush Series

1995 - BBC Wales

1995 - Granada News featuring Chester and the Dee Valley Project (during my Writer in Residence, The

 Dee Valley, Wales)

1995 - LUSH LIFE, Granada Television. A film celebrating Black artists in the North of England

1990 - THE NEW, Granada Television. An arts magazine programme

1989 - BOX OFFICE, Channel 4

 

Prizes and awards:

 

2003 -WindRush Arts Achiever Award

1991 - Peterloo Poets Afro-Caribbean, Asian Poetry Prize

1991 - Arts Council Literary Award (for Lure of the Cascadura)

1988 - Equal second prize shared with Jackie Kay, Peterloo Afro-Caribbean, Asian Poetry Prize (prize

 was split that year)

1987 - Second prize, Cultureword Poetry Competition, with 'Englan No Mudder Country'

1987 - Peterloo Poets Afro-Caribbean, Asian Poetry Prize

1987 - Commended, National Poetry Competition for 'Ham Bone and Tidal Waves'

1987 - Highly commended, Peterloo Poets  Poetry Competition for 'Skin, Skin is me, Yuh Na Know Meh'

 

 Publications:

 

Single full collections:

2015 – Dancing in the Rain, a collection of poems for younger readers,

             Peepal Tree Press

2015 – A Carib Being in Cymru, A Caribbean poet view of North Wales,
             Cane Arrow Press

2009 – No Apples in Eden, New and Selected Poems, Smith/Doorstop

             Bookshop

2009 – Cook-Up in a Trini Kitchen, Poems, recipes, drawings, watercolours;

             Peepal Tree Press

2002 – Voices from a Silk-Cotton Tree, Smith/Doorstop Bookshop

1994 – Behind the Carnival, Smith/Doorstop Bookshop

1989 – Lure of the Cascadura, Bogle L-'Ouverture Publications Ltd

 

Anthology contributions:

2012 - Out of Bounds, Bloodaxe Books, Editors Jackie Kay, James Procter and Gemma Robinson

2011 - Not Only the Dark, Categorical Books, editor Vicky Wilson

2010 - Writing Your Self, publisher Continuum, Editors John Killick and Myra Schneider

2010 - Did I Tell You, Categorical Books, Editors Niki Gould and Vicky Wilson

2010 - Red, Peepal Tree Press Ltd, editor Kwame Dawes

2006 - Hair, Suitcase Books

2005 - Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, Oxford University Press, editors Stewart Brown and Mark McWatt

2002 - Moving Voices - Hansib Publications

2001 - Poems Then and Now, compiled by Fiona Waters - Evans Bros Ltd

2001 - On a Camel To The Moon, compiled by Valerie Bloom - Belitha Press

2000 - IC3 Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain - Hamish Hamilton

2000 - Hello New, an anthology of poems for children - Smith/Doorstop

1999 - Aldeburfh Poeetry Festival Anthology 1989 - 1998

1994 - A Caribbean Dozen, an anthology of poems for children - Walker Books

1991 - The Sun Rises in The North, a collection of four poets - Smith/Doorstop Books

1991 - Oxford Poetry, Volume v1. No. 1  Summer  edition

1988 - The New Brirish Poetry

 

 

  Visual CV

 

Windrush Award Winner, Arts Achiever of the Year 2003

Co-Founder: Hourglass Studio Gallery

Member of the Board of Trustees

Hourglass Educational Arts Development Services: HEADS from 2004 to 2010

 

Education:

 

1959-64 - Goldsmiths' College, School of Art, London.

1964-65 - Art Education Department, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

 

Professional memberships:

 

International Association of Art

Ovenden Contemporary Arts

Founder member of CAM (Cambridge Arts Movement)

 

Professional positions:

 

2004 - 2010 Trustee Member of the Board of Hourglass Educational Arts Development Services

1998-2004 - Director, Hourgass Studio Gallery

2000 - Adjudicator Co-operative Insurance Christmas card competition

1994-2002 - Member of the Board of Directors, AXIS Visual Arts Information Service

1994 - External Assessor, BA Hons in Cultural Studies, Norwich School of Art and Design

1994 - Adjudicator, British Council Children's International Painting Competition

1994 - Adjudicator for W. H. Smiths Illustration Awards to Schools, John Moores University, Liverpool

1991-92 - Member of the Board of Directors, Nia Centre

1991 - Selector for Dub Transition, an exhibition of work by Denzil Forrester, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston

1991 - Selector for the Nottingham Open Exhibition

1989 - Advisor to Young Contemporaries Exhibition Company

1988 - Adjudicator for the Young Artist Award, Whitechapel Art Gallery London

1987 - Selector for the exhibition, Double Vision, Cartwright Hall Bradford

1987-89 - External purchaser for the Arts Council National Collection

 

Exhibitions:

 

I have been exhibiting since the early sixties: From 1972, thirty-seven mixed / group exhibitions and fifteen solo exhibitions. The following is a selection:

 

Solo

2013 - Mythlore, The Apex Gallery, Bury St Edmunds

2010 - Selected Mini Retrospective from 1964 to 1984, Williams Art Cambridge

2009 - Chimera, Needhams Restaurant and Art Gallery

2006 - Diorama Art Centre Gallery, London.

2005 - 3Cups Gallery Ely, Cambridgeshire

2002 - 'In the Terrain of the Psyche' Hourglass Studio Gallery, Hebden Bridge

2000 - Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech

1999 - 'Ovation', Rochdale Art Gallery

1998 - 'Daydreaming', Lawrence Batley Gallery, West Bretton

1997 - 'Mythopoeia' a major touring exhibition from Wrexham Art Centre.

1992-94 - Behind The Carnival; a major touring exhibition Huddersfield Art Gallery.

1994 - Galway Arts Centre, Republic of Ireland.

1991 - Castle Museum Nottingham.

1990 - Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

 

Mixed / group

 

2016 - Cultural Connections, Babylon Arts Ely, Cambridgeshire

 

2015 - Spirit of Carnival, Upper Gallery, The Plough, Shepreth.

2014 - Aterlier Contemporary, Cambridge City Art Fair

2013 - Blue Contemporary, Cambridge City Art Fair

2010 - Art To Die For, CAM at Williams Art Cambridge

2009 - Ever After The Honey, Clare Hall, Cambridge University

2009 - Ovenden Contemporary Art Group Exhibition, The Old Palace, Ely

2009 - Hills Road Exhibition, Cambridge

2007 - Upper Gallery, Home Affairs, Cambridge Open Studios Artists

1998 - 'Evocation': Hourglass Studio Gallery.

1995 - Caribbean Connections, Islington Art Factory, London.

1990 - 'Let The Canvas Come To Life With Dark Faces' Arts Council sponsored touring exhibition.

1989 - Jouvert Print Exhibition. The Paddington Print Project, a major touring exhibition.

1988 - Plotting The Course. Arts Council sponsored touring exhibition.

1986 - Caribbean Expressions in Britain, Leicester Art Gallery.

1982 - The Hayward Annual, South Bank, London.

1982 - Edison Galerie, The Hague, Holland.

1979 - Galerie du Musee des Duncans, Paris.

 

Included in the following publications:

 

2009 - Self.  Self-portraits from around the world.  Beautiful Cariad Publishing

2001 - Responses: intercultural drawing practice, Centre for Art International Research, Liverpool University

1998 - The Dictionary of Artists in Britain 1945-1998, David Buckman

1998 - The Art Pack, History of Black Artists in Britain, Haringey Arts Council

1997 - Intermediate GNVQ Art & Design, MacMillan

1997 - Black Art, Plotting the Course, Exhibition Catalogue

 

Workshops: Numerous

 

The following is a selection:

2009 - Firstsite Art Bus, Colchester

2007 - Barns Young People's Forum, Community Centre, Barns Estate, Ely

2005 - Art Workshops:  Sutton, Wilburton, Witchford and Harbour schools, funded by ADEC.

2003 - Carnival Workshops, Youth Bank, Rochdale

2003 - The Carnival of Chairs, 'Local Children Network. Calderdale Community Foundation.

2002 - M6 Theatre Company at Hamer School: permanent 3-D sculpture: collaborative process between artist and pupils

2002 - Belgrave Infant School, Chester, Words and painting

2002 - Shade School, Todmorden, Masking-making workshop

2002 - Mixenden Community Drawing on the Earth Project

2001 - Mixenden Community School holidays, painting workshop

2001 - Ossette School, Wakesfield, Carnival Costume making workshop

2001 - Year of the Artist Residency, Stubbings School, Lancashire

1997 - Paula Rego Exhibition, Tate Gallery Liverpool.

1995 - Vital, Tate Gallery, Liverpool.

1994 - Africa Explores, Tate Gallery Liverpool.

1994 - Artist in Residence, Rush Common County Primary,Oxford.

1993 - Community Artist in Residence for the Tate GalleryLiverpool.

1993 - David Tremlett Exhibition, Cornerhouse Manchester.

1992 - Russel Cotes Museum and Art Gallery, Bournemouth.

1992 - Visiting Artist, Dept. of Art and Design John Moores University, Liverpool.

 

Radio Broadcasts:

 

Community Artist in Residence with Joseph Beuys exhibition at the Tate Gallery Liverpool and Liverpool carnival 1993.

BBC World Service, and Meridian programme on Africa Explores.

 

 

Television appearances:

 

1998 - BBC Television, 'Windrush' 50 commemorative programme

1997 - HTV Wales, Preview on Mythopoeia

1994 - 'Lush Life'; Celebration film series, Granada Television

1990 - The New; Granada Television

1989 - Jouvert Print Exhibition. Ch.4 Box Office

1989 - Plotting The Course exhibition, Late Night Show BBC 2

 

Public collections:

 

RochdaleArt Gallery. Huddersfield Art Gallery. Victoria & Albert Word and Image Print Collection. Arts Council National Collection.

 

Private collections:

 

In England, France, Holland, United States and Switzerland.

 

From 1987 I have also been involved with a number of visual art activities. They include, designing the stage set for the play 'Empire' at the Abraham Moss Community Theatre; art lectures and seminars at art galleries and educational establishments, including Cornerhouse, Manchester, Tate Liverpool, John Moores University Liverpool, and the Metropolitan University, Manchester. I have also been the author of feature articles on visual art and on art criticism for magazines; eg., Bazaar and The Artful Reporter ( a North West arts magazine, in the 80’s). My visual art writings also include exhibition catalogue essays for the following: Dub Transition, a major touring exhibition of the work of Denzil Forrester; Jouvert Print Exhibition and Tony Phillips' 'Jazz and The Twentieth Century'.

An interview with Craig Kerrecoe

Craig Kerrecoe & John Lyons

 

 

John Lyons is a genuine renaissance man- a truly wonderful visual artist, an accomplished poet, a great friend and a cook worthy of his own Channel 4 show. I’ve known John for many years and he is all of those things.

 

He’s also vibrant and incredibly friendly, jolly, supportive, positive,  generous and inspirational. That’s my experience at least and I know it to be the experience of everyone else that is lucky enough to know him.

 

Having shown John’s work in the past at many different events and exhibitions, I know first hand that his paintings, sketches and woodcuts have a vitality, depth and quality that have taken many decades to cultivate. You can really sense the experience, the ‘knowing’ in John’s work. Sometimes it challenges you to reconsider what you think you already know; other times it affirms what you feel inside. But always you feel a reaction, an interaction.

 

Tell us about your training or your background John.

 

Well, my country of birth is Trinidad and Tobago.  I received my first formal art education as a painter at Goldsmiths College School of Art, London, from 1959 to 1964. After that I studied at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to teach art as a specialist subject from 1964 to 1965.

 

Did you teach art after that?

 

Yes, my first job was at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys. In 1967 I moved to Manchester where I worked in secondary schools for nine years, before becoming an Art and Design Lecturer in South Trafford College. I taught at the college for seventeen years, all the time continuing with my writing and painting.

 

Education and learning is incredibly important to John. When he was nine, his mother died after a short illness and he and his three siblings moved to rural Tobago to live with his grandmother. There, he discovered and sought refuge in the works of Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, and any other author he was able to find in the library in Scarborough.

 

In 1948 John returned to Trinidad to live with his father and stepmother. After successfully passing the Senior Cambridge exam, he had to forego further study to lessen the financial burden of his family's education costs. Being accepted into Goldsmiths in 1959 was a momentous event for John- one that would change his life.

 

He has a very academic perspective on the act of painting…

 

Painting, in my view, is a total experience of being perceptually engaged with my living environment.

 

Explain…

 

Well, this engagement, this perceptual engagement, is often an imaginative enquiry beyond the surface of things and is expressed creatively through the visual language of paint.

 

Beyond the surface of things?

 

Very much so. My actual painting practice is a playful and intuitive use of paint which takes me on a journey of discovery, beyond the surface of things.  The process of painting is the ‘thing’, the end product is a different experience and another beginning.

 

Does that mean you never quite know what to expect when you start painting?

 

(He pauses) It is always good to have an idea of the direction, but it is never necessary, as a creative artist, to know the exact paths to take.  Apart from ‘will’, the imperative to paint and to create, this outlook generates creative energy for me to carry on.

 

That and your persistent preoccupation with folklore?

 

Yes. My abiding thematic interest is Trinidad and Tobago folklore and legends.  Folklore and legends are universally and essentially concerned with the human condition: an endeavour in trying to come to terms with the mysteries of the living environment.

 

The place where this endeavour is conducted, his studio, is a converted garage on the side of his house overlooking the Fens in Littleport, just north of Ely. It’s never looked big enough to contain John’s creativity, not to my eyes.

 

It’s adequate, creatively messy but I know where things are!

 

How long does it take you to finish a painting, on average?

 

Oh, this is an interesting question.  From my view point, a work is never really completed.  I think in terms of the work being resolved; and it is for this reason that after spending several weeks/months on a painting, it tells me it is not resolved and I am left with an uncomfortable feeling which prompts me to set the work aside until I feel I want to work on it again.

 

How long are they set aside for?

 

Some works take as long as one to two years to come back to me.  Other works are quickly resolved within a week; and I can complete a watercolour in a day.

 

Is it often that a piece tells you that it is not yet resolved?

 

Yes- I am currently working on a pastel, not yet resolved.  I’m still not sure how to continue.  Meanwhile there are about three works I keep looking at with the idea of doing more to them.  They are telling me there is more work to be done.

 

What will you do to resolve them?

 

I will continue to explore the linguistic visual qualities, line shape, colour, texture, to express my preoccupation with mythology, folklore, legends and what I think is the terrain of the psyche.

 

Which artists do you admire the most?

 

I don’t have a favourite artist, as such.  There are several artists whose work I do admire: historically, Picasso for his creative energy and inventiveness; Matisse and Chagall for their use of colour; Kandinsky for the abstract and sensual musicality of his paintings; Braque for his intellect and sense of abstraction.  I also enjoy the work of Francis Bacon and John Bellany. There are creative qualities in the works of all these artists from which I learn.

 

Do you think the artist has a specific role in society?

 

Interestingly, this is a question for the critics and academics to answer.  They are more appropriately in the position to answer this question.

 

What do you think though?

 

Generally, I believe most fine artists are motivated to produce work primarily for themselves without thinking of their role in society.  Artists must be honest, have artistic integrity and be true to themselves; the role they play in society is not a conscious one and is incidental.

 

You clearly revel in ‘being an artist’ What do you most enjoy about it?

 

Having always work to do and being engaged with the creative processes of making art; and there is no retirement age.  I also love to share my work with the public.

 

Are there any aspects of being an artist that you don’t enjoy?

 

Definitely. More often than not, the general public’s indifference and lack of respect for artists; also their lack of real interest in engaging with what artists do. That’s a struggle.

 

It must be important to get the balance right between sharing your work with the public and minimising your exposure to indifference and lack of respect?

Well, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Previews, launches and the public attending these events are an integral part of what the world of art is about. I have my own artist’s sense of achievement in producing a piece of work, but what value does the work have to the world at large if it is never seen?  Opportunities must be given to others to engage with it.

 

What is the best thing anybody could say to you about your work?

 

That after a long time they are still discovering new aspects of the work that give them pleasure and food for thought.

 

And the worst?

 

That they are bored with it.

 

What would be your dream project?

 

My dream project is to produce pieces of interactive installation art which integrate drawings, paintings, sound, music and poetry, spoken and written.

 

What are your plans for the future? What would you like to achieve?

 

My plan for the future is to keep on painting, keep on looking and engaging with my living environment. I’d really like to have a major retrospective of 80 to 100 pieces of my work spanning the 1960’s to the present; and to be in the position of sharing my work with a much wider public. I’d also like to increase the representation of my work in more national public collections.

John Lyons Bio

John Lyons is a painter and poet, born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. When he was nine, his mother died after a short illness and he and his three siblings moved to rural Tobago to live with his grandmother. There, he discovered and sought refuge in the works of Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, and any other author he was able to find in the library in Scarborough.

 

In 1948 he returned to Trinidad to live with his father and stepmother. After successfully passing the Senior Cambridge exam, Lyons had to forego further study to lessen the financial burden of his family's education costs. He passed the Civil Service entrance examination and worked for five years in the Civil Service, during which time he continued with his passion for writing and painting.

 

In 1959 he was accepted into Goldsmiths College in London, and graduated in 1964 with a National Diploma of Design. He gained an Art Teachers’ Diploma at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1965; his first job was at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys. In 1967 he moved to Manchester where he worked in secondary schools for nine years, before becoming an Art and Design lecturer in South Trafford College.
He taught at the college for seventeen years, all the time continuing with his writing and painting. In 1987
he won a clutch of poetry prizes: second prize in the Cultureword Poetry Competition; the Peterloo Poets
Afro-Caribbean and Asian prize; a commendation in the National Poetry Competition, and in the Peterloo
Poetry Competition.

 

Lyons was co-founder of the Hourglass Studio Gallery in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, where he directed art and Creative Writing workshops with his partner Jean Rees. The arts educational limb of the organisation became a charity, and he remained on the Board of Trustees until 2009, when it lost its Art Council funding in the general cuts.

 

His first full collection of poems, Lure of the Cascadura, was published in 1989 by Bogle L’Ouverture Publications, for which he received a major Arts Council award. In 2003 he was given the WindRush Arts Achiever Award.
Apart from his numerous contributions to poetry anthologies, he has 8 published poetry collections, the most recent being: A Carib Being in Cymru and Dancing in the Rain, both in 2015.

For further information on commissions, my availability for exhibitions (solo, touring, or mixed), or for information about contributing poetry
to anthologies, public readings and workshops, please contact me in the first instance by email:

© All images by John Lyons 2015