Shadows, Counterfeits & Familiars – Rosalind Lyons

Tuesday September 20, 2022

Private View: Sunday 2nd October 2022 11.00am – 4.00pm

The Exhibition continues until: Saturday 22nd October 2022

View the exhibition here

Rosalind Lyons

There is no specific theme to this collection of new paintings; the title, Shadows, Counterfeits and Familiars, was suggested by the subjects, and the compositions are loosely grouped under these headings.

Rosalind Lyons - What Fairies Haunt This Ground - Oil on Board - 24 x 16 Inches
What Fairies Haunt This Ground – Oil on Board – 24 x 16 Inches

I have chosen ‘familiar’ to mean mainly a companion, but also to suggest something supernatural or uncanny, like the ‘familiars’ of witches. Domestic animals and birds were often included in 16th and 17th century portraits, but I am also much inspired by the daemons in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

The word ‘counterfeit’ now generally means something fake or fraudulent, but in the 16th century this was only one of several meanings; it could denote something made through creative or artistic endeavour, and occurs in Shakespeare’s text in connection with acting, meaning pretence or impersonation. Counterfeit could also mean a portrait, for which another word then used was the term ‘shadow’. This is a highly evocative word, again with multiple meanings. Significantly, it was used in Shakespearean theatre as a colloquial name for actors.

My subjects are inventions; characters within an imaginary narrative and ambiguous context. Ideas come from an eclectic range of sources. My most enduring influences are from cultural history – the European Renaissance and the Tudor and Jacobean periods.

Rosalind Lyons - These Happy Masks - Oil on Board - 12 x 12 Inches
These Happy Masks – Oil on Board – 12 x 12 Inches

In his introduction to Shakespearean Negotiations, Stephen Greenblatt states:

‘I began with the desire to speak with the dead … for the dead had contrived to leave textual traces of themselves, and those traces make themselves heard in the voices of the living. Many of the traces have little resonance, though everyone, even the most trivial or tedious, contains some fragment of a lost life …’

The figures in my paintings have been compared to ghosts; a view that implies – apart from an echo of a past time or a ‘fragment of a lost life’ – something unreal and unearthly. A shadow can, like a ghost, be perceived as an insubstantial and illusory copy of an original.

But there is power in an illusion.