Rosalind Lyons Exhibition 2019
Tuesday October 1, 2019
In this exhibition, the title ‘An Insubstantial Pageant’ comes from the well-known speech by Prospero in The Tempest:
‘Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.’
(The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1, 148–158)
This speech is particularly evocative and relevant to the creation of a painting – the images are illusions, fictions – like Prospero says, ‘insubstantial’ figures which appear then disappear into ‘thin air’; the transitory image, suggesting ideas of transformation and impermanence.
Like a theatrical performance, the paintings represent and contain their own dramatic narrative, and the figures seem to be in many ways transient, – appearing, existing in a moment; the paintings capture that fleeting instant. The idea of a pageant also seemed apt – a procession of characters, often elaborately costumed but whose real identity is uncertain. My paintings have directly referred to Renaissance imagery for many years, exploring the use of Shakespearean motifs and the aesthetics of Elizabethan costume. The figures have been described as ‘ghosts’, and my work is strongly influenced and inspired by the past and by memory: by the ghosts of the Renaissance painters and the ghosts of the original Globe Theatre, of the players, of the audiences, and of Shakespeare.
I don’t always know, or at least can’t always articulate, the exact relationship between Shakespeare’s words and the images I create. I am interested in ambiguity and layers of meaning – inherent in so much of Shakespeare’s language – meanings that are enigmatic, equivocal. The link with Shakespeare’s plays and his time is sometimes direct, but other images are less specific. I choose many, probably most, of my titles from Shakespeare and – to me – the language, the poetry, is a constant while I am painting. Even if the connection is obscure, the titles indicate this conscious or subconscious influence – more of a sensory and lateral engagement with the plays and the text.
Rosalind Lyons, 2019