A short history of the
artist John Lally
finding art - 1991-2020
Born in England to Irish/English parents, I spent my childhood in England with summers in Ireland. After leaving school, I worked in a carpet factory and hotel before before travelling throughout Europe and the middle east before settling in London. It was in London in the early 90s that I began painting and creating art. At first this was figurative, but as the 90s progressed I changed my focus to pure abstract and conceptual art. I create works by scratching boards, paper and canvases in the hope of discovering something below the surface.
A cold day in Swiss Cottage
It was in 1991 when I decided that I would paint. What or how I was going to paint was unknown, all I knew on that winters day in Swiss Cottage Market in London was, I would buy these paints and brushes, take them home and begin
This was not going to be easy
I began painting, and did not stop for a very long time, the pleasure from the first application, the realisation I had found something, not only I enjoyed, but also something I was willing to dedicate myself to, was weighted only with the frustration of not being happy with what was produced
I left London in 92 to travel throughout Europe. Oils were out of the question so I took watercolours. Watercolours were and will always be a challenge, a challange I love, underrated, but as difficult a medium there is to paint with
From recreate to create
I clearly remember the time in the old Tate Gallery that is now Tate Britain, when I stopped aiming for the Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists and turned my attention to the Jackson Pollock’s and Rothco’s. It was a long time before I consciously decided to move from figurative to abstract, but that period ironically seemed to come around the time he was beginning to be confident with my figurative work.
A new start
It was now 1994, I had moved back to Salisbury, was settled and had joined life drawing and other classes at the art collage when I started becoming more experimental. I was introduced to the art of Giocometti, William Scott, Ben Nicholson and Gerhard Richter, along with many other artists, which led me to search for my own unique style
Scratch under the surface
The first time I purposely scratched a painting was in 1999, I had now spent over 7 years painting and 2 or 3 trying to find my own style, rather than copying artists I liked. It did not come in a moment, but over time, I become fascinated with the idea that nothing is as it seems. When we scratch beneath the surface, we get more of the picture
Time to take this furthur
It was always going to happen, I had to make a choice between career, family and painting. I was working in London at the time, commuting from the coast and working long hours when I decided to change, I could not find the energy to paint, or dedicate time to my family. So I packed up and moved to France.
Drawing the line
I already knew by now that the direction I wanted to take was by layering paint on paper, canvas or board, scratching at layers until I felt I had arrived at anything that touched something within me.
How much is too much
My first thoughts of concept art were in ignorance, the ignorance of how a simple idea can completely take over your life. Greed was going to be the focus of this piece or pieces. Over the next two years, I spent time reflecting on how you could represent greed in a painting. Then it took on its own life, it had to be ridiculously expensive, it had to be simple and complex, it had to show both sides of greed, his the artist that was creating this, and the greed of the person who would consider purchasing an art work like this
By 2005 I realised there is no subject you could paint that could express pure greed without falling into a dumb cliche. So, I chose a number, the painting would be a worthless representation of the amount it would cost, a price tag. With that I began painting 3 boards with a figure of 1 million, each to be scratched a million times
No end in sight
It was 2009 and I was tired, layer upon layer and scratch upon scratch. But, by now I had began to notice that whatever other works I attempted to paint, were so much darker now.
Between the summer of 2005 and 2010 I had completed just 2 paintings, both small, both dark and both in my opinion then, a complete waste of time.
7 years in the wilderness
I moved between France, Switzerland, Holland and the UK for the next 7 years going from job to job, always with the thought of returning to painting, but never really finding the right time
Back in alignment
The right time came in the winter of 2017, I began to paint again, and after a little while, started to enjoy it again.
2020, 15 years since I began, the first 3 of The Million Series were finally completed.