Antony Lyons

About Antony

An eco-social artist based in England. Working with video, sound, photography and sculpture, his focus is landscapes, places and communities.

With a background in eco/geo-sciences and landscape studies, his creative practice has a hybrid quality, braiding art & science, responding to current ecological and social challenges. His research and production methods rely on extensive on-the-ground sensing, absorbing and then assembling digital video-sonic content, sculptural materials, archives and stories. Resulting works can include film-poems and installation spaces, usually developed during extended artist residencies. Lyons often collaborates with scientists, academics, musicians and poets.

With an ecological lens, his interests lie in activating fresh dialogues, insights and questions. He is drawn to the liminal water settings of rivers & coasts. His projects prompt conversations between insider and outsider perspectives and weave together past, present and future imaginations. He describes his creative approach as ‘geopoetic’.

Lyons’ title for his Elan Valley residency was ‘Long Exposure’, with initial ideas to explore local route-ways; layers of time/archaeology; the connection to the poet Shelley; the territory of the water catchment; and aspects of the ‘drowning’ of the valleys.

To initiate his residency, he invited a small group of people to visit, walk and stay in the artist cottage: Owain Jones, professor of Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University; Hywel Griffiths, poet and geographer at Aberystwyth University; Ginny Battson, eco-philosopher, with a strong connection to water landscapes. Discussions and findings from this initial gathering were influential in scoping and refocussing the residency. In particular, a shift to narrowing down the primary geographical zone to the immediate environs of the the artist cottage at Pen-y-Garreg and the hillside immediately above. Early intentions were also to develop a link with one or more groups or projects in Birmingham.

Initial concepts and notes for the residency were mapped-out using a series of mind-map iterations. A word-cloud graphic was also created (see Fig.1).

After two short periods at the cottage (in October 2019 & Feb 2020), plus a visit in March 2020 to record a performance of the play, ‘The Valley of Nanygwyllt’, Covid restrictions affected his residency programme. An opportunity arose in August 2020 to present 6 short video-sonic works at a festival in Birmingham, as part of ’Ten Acres of Sound’ hosted by Artefact Projects in Stirchley.

Lyons’ video installation for the festival was hosted by the Birmingham Brewing Company, emphasising the water pipeline connection and utility.

In addition to support from Elan Links, his residency was assisted by the CCRI (Countryside & Community Research Institute), as part of a long-running association. An advantage of his extended residency timespan in Elan was the ability to develop deeper involvements with some of the local sheep-farming community, with CARAD in Rhayader, and to initiate a sound-art collaboration with a Birmingham-based artist, Nikki Sheth. This audio work is available on the Soundcloud platform.

Lyons described his residency process and research in some further blog writings.

For the past 2 years, I have been exploring the moors, dams and pipelines – with the help of farmers, rangers and others. Tuning-in, listening, observing, my focus ranging from the big picture to the microcosmos… With a hybrid art/science attention to ecology and landscape, I describe my approach as ‘geopoetic’, but also kinaesthetic i.e. relying on the experience of moving through physical spaces and places. When reaching out to the landscape, an attitude of openness and non-attachment to outcome can lead to the emergence of something unexpected, or strange. Ostranenie. Seeing the familiar in a new light. Also important is the conversation between ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ perspectives.

Last summer, I was back in the sanctuary – or retreat – of the ‘artist cottage’ high above the reservoir at Pen-y-Garreg at Elan in Wales. Having spent a busy and active previous visit, much of it in the company of upland sheep-farmers, my mood was one of slow reflection and putting pen to paper in an attempt to weave a tapestry from diverse creative-research strands. Finally seeing the light of day, the aim in this new blog piece is to try to create a fruitful – and imaginative – dialogue between two distant places. I am linking the situation of the Elan Valley with the Côa Valley in Portugal – site of a connected artist-residency project.

During the summer at Elan, I participated in a ‘gathering’ – that is the rounding up of a dispersed herd of sheep from the high moorland; then herding to the home farm for the following day’s wool-shearing. One aspect of this seasonal ‘event’ which fascinated me was the mode of shared collective working – that of neighbouring farmers coming together to assist each other, following a tradition of cooperation and reciprocal exchange. This rural practice reminded me of the shared ‘Meitheal’ harvest/threshing gatherings which were once the norm in my homeland in rural Ireland.”

During his residency, his artistic practice has expanded and developed new avenues via the use of macro photography. Follow-on work with the sheep-farming community is planned (creative documentation, sound-art). Other potential add-ons are ambitions to collaboratively create data sonifications and music/choral compositions.

Watch 10 Acres of Sound videos

PIPE DREAMS from novadada on Vimeo.