Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Tuesday 05 July 2022

American Artist Bill Lynch's Exhibition The Exile of Dionysus @ Brighton CCA Spotlights The Power Of The Past In The Present Moment

Largely overlooked in his lifetime, Bill Lynch was a painter of exceptional power and talent, whose work ranging across time and cultures continues to speak to us about the power of the past in the present moment. 

Assessing Lynch's work in the New York Times in 2014,  critic Roberta Smith wrote 'Genius lands where genius will, and I'm pretty sure some alighted on Bill Lynch.'

The exhibition title is a reference to the Greek god of wine, parties, theatre, harvest, madness and ecstasy. 

As a young man Lynch arrived to study at Cooper Union in New York around 1978. 

Described by his friend the artist Verne Dawson, 'he radiated a physical energy that was incandescent … of the Sufi bent – intoxication, whirling, playing the fiddle all in the service of connecting with the oneness of spirit and matter.' 

Lynch it seems was a powerful force, but during his time in New York, he lived on the fringes – social, passionate, a huge fan of rock n roll and dedicated to his work, but never entirely embraced by the New York art world of the 1970s and 80s. 

He rarely sold his work and was never represented by any of the burgeoning number of galleries in the city at the time. 

Dawson continues: 

"He couldn't have cared less about the minimalist music of Philip Glass or Steve Reich. 

"He consumed and considered pop stars and movies, not the new issue of Artforum."

He might just as easily be found playing rock and roll records at a party, as in a state of revery drawing under a cherry tree in Central Park. 

Lynch had considerable depth of knowledge in art history linking ancient Chinese painting to contemporaries such as Warhol and Alice Neel who were both significant influences. 

Lynch painted primarily onto salvaged plywood sheets and other found materials. 

Partly from financial necessity and partly because of the contributions the grains, knots and marks afforded the work, often leaving areas raw and exposed. 

He depicted landscapes and wildlife, cultural artefacts and mythical symbols through instinctive and direct brushstrokes with a psychological connection to his subject matter.

The Exile of Dionysus is an exhibition in two parts tracing connections in Lynch's work between his wide-ranging interests spanning ancient cultures, mythology and art history. 

In the South Gallery, visitors encounter a world of lush vegetation, plants and landscapes interspersed with anthropological images and symbols. 

Moving into the North Gallery, there is a collection of works born from Lynch's deep interest in traditional Chinese painting.

Across the exhibition there is a conversation between two spaces, between the spiritual and the earthly, the tension between a past and the current moment. 

Bill Lynch: The Exile of Dionysus at Brighton CCA from 6th August — 15th October 2022. CLICK HERE for details.

by: Mike Cobley


Credit Raymond Briggs

Though born in London, Raymond Briggs - creator of illustrations as diverse as The Snowman and When The Wind Blows, who has died at the age of 88 - became a long-time resident of Sussex, and forged strong links with the University of Brighton.

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