Guy Lyman

St. James Infirmary Blues, 2022
Charcoal, Oil Crayon, Oil, Acrylic, Oil Pastel, Watercolor
30 x 40 in
I am primarily an abstract painter, so this one was really anomalous for me. It became a painting about Jean Michel Basquiat, in a style reminiscent of the 80's when he was in New York (Neo-Expressionism). Written in tar are the words "I went down to the St. James Infirmary," from a famous New Orleans song called "St. James Infirmary Blues" that here in New Orleans one has heard quite a bit by the time they reach my age. You can see influences of folks like Donald Baechler, Julian Schnabel and Philip Guston here, but the painting started to also incorporate shades of black folk art. I don't see it as a depressing painting, depite Basquiat's early demise - there's that spirit bird, and all will be well.

I use a variety of media - nearly always oil and acrylic, but often wax, tar and other materials. I am as interested in the negative space as the positive, and spend a lot of time on the layering, taking out and covering up, wiping and scraping, modulating color, texture and sheen, to get it where I want it. I have fingers in the paint as often as brushes."

“Lyman’s work evolves restlessly, with the common elements generally being deft and unusual color choices that balance assonance and dissonance, and vestiges of the hand and facture purposely left in the paintings. The negative space is often so meticulously worked that it’s almost as if the objects – usually simple shapes – are there as much to complement the background as vice versa. Despite the often bold colors there is an elegance about his paintings that prevents them from being either loud or decorative. "

Artbeit Zeitschrift

“His paintings are a refreshing departure from the current abstract art world’s seemingly endless parade of fields of color with scribbles providing form, a style that is easily mimicked and has become a sort of “safe,” accessible go-to. There are confident decisions in these paintings appearing as commitments of strongly delineated forms and unexpected collisions of color that give the work a visceral, confident and playful soul, increasingly missing from contemporary expressionist abstraction. They are the paintings of a real painter rather than a decorative artist.”

ArtSeen, 2018

I have been painting for about 30 years, since before I was a dealer. I always was and remain most drawn to so-called “painterly” painters, whose interest is less in the formal aspects of painting than in the paint itself, and signs of the artist’s hand in its application. Initially I was drawn to paintings from the magical period between New York Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine and Cy Twombly. In the Eighties, it was New York neo-Expressionists such as Julian Schnabel, Terry Winters and Donald Baechler. As you can see, in the past few years my paintings have become more formal, but you can still see a lot of the hand in them. I grew up in New Orleans, lived in various places in the U.S. and Europe, then returned to "the Big Easy" to open my Magazine Street gallery, which I sold in 2017 before moving my art business entirely online. I still enjoy meeting fellow art collectors and painters when they visit New Orleans.