Travel has played an important part in Michael Lyons’ development as a sculptor. He has visited numerous museums and galleries in many cities across the world, as well as ancient sites of global historical importance including – Teotihuacan, Tula, Palenque, and site of the Terra cotta Army in Xi’an. He has also visited places of great ecological relevance such as the breathtaking Iguazu Falls on the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
While these epic sites provide a sense of scale both in terms of immense space and historical perspective, it is often the less spectacular experiences that provide an impetus for sculpture. A glimpse of light on the lake, a sudden storm, clouds across the mountains or the ‘fleeting moment’ when one merges into the flux of city life are times when a sense of place can take hold and dissolve what one accepts as the norm; integrating one’s Western sensibility into a more universal picture.
Travel for Michael Lyons has never been a matter of sightseeing or tourism, but a profound identification with the countries and cultures he has experienced. Working closely with craftsmen and assistants in China, Mexico, Turkey and Argentina has brought him close to the essence of those countries on a very basic and human level.
Photography, journals, and poetry have been the ‘tools’ that he has employed to respond to places and situations. These have been a method of storing impressions and memories, way of triggering the original impulse or as vehicles for further sculptural development. A photograph taken by the artist of the midday sun on the West Lake in the Southern Chinese city of Hangzhou, resulted in a poem that in turn formed the basis for Lyons’ monumental sculpture ‘Lake Afire’, sited in the recently created Taiziwan Bay Park near the centre of the city.
Responding to the environment in terms of sculptural experience in this way had its roots in earlier travels when Lyons was artist in residence at the University of Lethbridge in Canada. Here drawings and photographs of the vast prairie landscape and the massive skies of Southern Alberta motivated the artist to make the dramatic ‘Canada Sky,’ placed on the University campus and set against the landscape that originally inspired it. (See ‘Large Scale Sculptures’)
On some occasions neither photographs nor words can do justice to the power of an experience; the Festival of the Bulls, a pyrotechnic display representing the forces of good and evil, held annually in the small town of Tultepec near Mexico City, is such an occasion. It is primitive, powerful and dangerous and affects the spectator at the deepest level of being, reverberating in the subconscious long after the town square has fallen silent. While it is more difficult to quantify an immediate end result in terms of sculpture, it is deeply emotive cultural traditions such as these that filter into the working process and emerge at a later date, renewing and invigorating the artist’s vision at a profound level.
Michael Lyons’ involvement with other cultures is ongoing and continually brings about a re- assessment of his life and work, expanding his horizons and understanding of man’s relationship with the world. This is the foundation on which his sculptural work is based at an international level.