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Mike Lyon, born 1951, wanted to become an artist when he was in his teens. He had even studied arts. But his parents and destiny had a different idea and he became a successful business man. In the 1990s Mike Lyon returned to his original vocation. And since the start of the new millenium, he has been on a fast path of becoming a famous printmaker. Lately his woodblock prints in blue-tones (aizuri-e) caused great attention at his first solo-exhibition at the renowned Ezoshi Gallery in Kyoto, Japan.
The following is a resumé and statement written by Mike Lyon and edited by artelino.)
"I have enjoyed making things for as long as I can remember. When I was asked as a boy what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said 'alligator', or 'fireman', or 'artist'!. By the time I was in high school, I had decided I wanted to be an 'artist', 'an architect', or a 'psychiatrist'.
I eventually received two degrees in fine art, but I was unable to earn a living as an artist. In 1976, I joined my father in his business which had been started by my great-great grandfather. To my surprise, I found that business offered a reasonable opportunity for creativity and invention. In 1978, I started a computer hardware and software design company and named it Grading Systems after our first invention, a computer based series of touch sensitive terminals for grading raw materials during production.
By 1991, I felt there was nothing left for me in business, and I was longing to return to making 'art'. Since then, I have worked long hours in my studio each day woodworking, painting and printmaking. In recent years I seem to have concentrated most of my efforts in making woodblock prints using traditional Japanese techniques. My interest seems to develop over time so that, in retrospect, there has been an intelligible passage from one piece to the next. I see my work as markers along the 'way'. The physical objects I produce are the byproduct of my activity and document my interests, my processes, how I spend my time, and what I think about. I like those more or less permanent markers which are precipitated out of my thoughts and activities.
Much of my work has been very analytical. Most of my time is still spent in what has become a many years long exploration of ways an image can be communicated from an assemblage of small parts. I like to break images into pieces, and the pieces into pieces. Some years ago, I conceived the 'breaking of images into pieces' as 'building images out of tiles'. I have designed tens of thousands of simple and unique tile patterns and designs, and that has fascinated me ever since. It seems to me that in tiling, I am at the 'edge' of art. When the tilings are simple enough, I can understand how they go together and what makes them work 'all at once'. But it doesn't take very much complexity before I can't understand it all at once. Then I begin 'choosing' patterns I like better and discarding those I like less, and it seems to me that in that irrational choice, art begins. Simpler than that and it's science. And when I overlay two patterns which I can understand 'at once', suddenly the whole thing is over the edge, and way beyond the boundary of intelligible complexity.
In recent years my 'tilings' have become 'contours' - abstract shapes which, when assembled, communicate image in a very clear way. For the most part, those images have been figurative - developed from photos of models (willing friends, and usually nude) shot in my studio under natural lighting. Although the image content itself has little to do with the process, I find that the subject holds my interest almost as strongly as the analytical nature of the process. And in the woodblock printing, there is a satisfying and almost completely non-rational activity, an unconscious skill honed over many tens of thousands of repetitions. So the process seems to me to be well balanced and holds my interest broadly on many levels.
I think I'm an experimenter, an artist, a scientist, an engineer. My need to 'make stuff' is fulfilled in the studio. I have manufactured thousands of cubes for block printing. Each face of each cube prints a different amount of ink. Images are made by 'typesetting' hundreds of the cubes with the appropriate faces up to make the different tones my eye reassembles into an image. Or wooden tiles for block printing - each identically carved, then assembled into grids of hundreds and printed - reassembled and reprinted - fantastic and unforeseeable compositions. Or wooden tiles sliced thin from beams and glued into flooring or wall covering in patterns which interest me. Or abstract contours over-laid in printing in order to reconstruct image in interesting and pleasing (to me) ways."
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