- Also known as
primary name: Lanceley, Colin
- individual; painter/draughtsman; printmaker; Australian; Male
- Life dates
- Text from Stephen Coppel, 'Out of Australia: Prints and Drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas', with a contribution by Wally Caruana on Aboriginal prints, BMP, 2011.
Colin Lanceley was brought up in Sydney, where his father was an engineer. He was apprenticed to a commercial engraver at the age of sixteen, this being the closest he could get to an art education. After attending evening art classes at North Sydney Technical College, he studied fulltime at East Sydney Technical College from 1956 to 1960. A formative influence was John Olsen who had recently returned from three years in Europe. In 1961 Lanceley joined the Imitation Realists group with Mike Brown and the New Zealander Ross Crothall who had been together at East Sydney Tech. A miscellany of assemblages created from the detritus of modern culture, ranging in the words of one bemused critic 'from bottle-tops, scrubbing brushes, tins and tables, to broken plates, paper fasteners and pieces of drain-piping', filled every corner of their first exhibition as the 'Annandale Imitation Realists' in Melbourne in February 1962. This had been arranged by their patron John Reed at his Museum of Modern Art and Design of Australia. Their second exhibition was held in Sydney as the 'Subterranean Imitation Realists' at the Rudy Komon Gallery in May the same year. An early champion of their junk art was the critic Robert Hughes, who later described them as Australia's 'first totally urban art-guerrilla group'.
After winning the Helena Rubinstein Travelling Scholarship in 1964, Lanceley sailed to Europe, initially staying with Robert Hughes in Italy and then settling in London in 1965. He broke into the London art world with his first exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in 1966 organised by the critic Jasia Reichardt. His new work comprised a hybrid of painting and sculpture which has remained a preoccupation. In the late 1960s this was characterised by shaped canvases on which were placed twisted, painted three-dimensional forms, often suggestive of micro-organisms and plant life. The collage imagery of T.S. Eliot's poems and the vital, physical presence of Melanesian fetish figures, which he has collected since the early 1960s, inform Lanceley's constructed paintings. He taught at the Bath Academy of Art and the Chelsea School of Art where he mixed with Howard Hodgkin, Patrick Caulfield and other British painters. Inspired by Joan Miró, who visited his studio in London in 1966, Lanceley began to spend periods working in Spain and France. In 1981, after sixteen years away, Lanceley returned to Australia, settling in Sydney.
An intermittent printmaker, Lanceley made his first prints with Janet Dawson at Gallery A in Melbourne before his departure for Europe in 1965. These include the lithograph, 'The stars in my true love's eyes', (2009,7016.14), with its explosion of writhing, biomorphic forms, which reveals his early twin debt to Miró and John Olsen. His London dealer Marlborough published two suites of his screenprints made with Chris Prater at Kelpra Studio: 'The miraculous mandarin', 1966, inspired by the collage music of Béla Bartók and 'Some adventures of Don Quixote', 1972. Kelpra printed and published his screenprint suite, 'The Waste Land', 1975, which drew upon T.S. Eliot. The Tate presented an exhibition of Lanceley's prints in 1976, organized by Pat Gilmour. Upon his return to Australia, Lanceley worked in Sydney with the printer Fred Genis. In 1985 he made the lithographic series, 'Places', in which places remembered from his sojourn away are matched with those re-encountered in Australia.
Colin Lanceley, born 6 January 1938 in Dunedin, New Zealand; died 30 January 2015 in Sydney, aged 77.
- Robert Hughes and William Wright, 'Colin Lanceley' (1987), Sydney: Craftsman House, revised and enlarged ed., 1993; Charles Spencer, 'Colin Lanceley, Alecto Monographs 3', London: Editions Alecto, 1973