Colin Lanceley, painter, sculptor and printmaker, was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1938 and raised in Australia, as his family relocated to Sydney in the following year. In 1954 at the age of 16 Lanceley was apprenticed as a colour photo engraver in the printing industry in Sydney. He also attended evening classes taught by Peter Laverty at North Sydney Technical College. Lanceley subsequently enrolled at the East Sydney Technical College in 1956, where he graduated with a Diploma in Art in 1960. After his student days, Lanceley, together with Michael Brown and Ross Crothall, formed the Imitation Realist Group (1961) and exhibited work at John Reed’s Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne and at the Rudy Komon Gallery in Sydney. This trio of artists enjoyed playing a game they called ‘aesthetic chess,’ where they made impromptu arrangements of the everyday contents of their pockets (for example coins, keys etc.), often laid out on a table at a cafe in Sydney’s Taylor Square.
As the recipient of the prestigious Helena Rubinstein Travelling Scholarship in 1964, Colin Lanceley travelled to Italy and the UK, where he remained throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He held his first London exhibition at Marlborough Gallery in February 1966. In the course of becoming a well-travelled artist, Lanceley embarked on numerous trips across Europe, visiting France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Crete. He spent extended periods working in France and Spain and during his time in England he lectured part-time at the Bath Academy of Art, Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, and the Chelsea School of Art, London. After his prize win at the Europe Prize for Painting held in Belgium in 1980, Lanceley continued his art practice in Burgundy rather than London. Lanceley married his wife Kay Morphett during his time aboard and they had two sons.
Lanceley, along with his family, returned to Australia in 1981, whereby he renounced the badge of expatriate artist. He was appointed as a lecturer at the City Art Institute in Sydney, serving in this post from 1983-86. Lanceley’s artistic reputation and influence was recorded in a 1987 publication by Craftsman House, with an introduction by Robert Hughes and an interview by William Wright, followed in the next year by an ABC film, ‘Colin Lanceley – Poetry of Place’ directed by Andrew Saw.
Significantly, in 1990 Colin Lanceley was awarded the honour of the Order of Australia (AO) for Service to Art. In the subsequent year he was presented with a Creative Arts Fellowship from the Australian Government and was also invited to lecture and exhibit at the Arts Club of Chicago, USA. Lanceley’s role as an honorary lecturer continued as he delivered the 1993 Lloyd Rees Memorial Lecture, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, in 2000 he lectured at the Bathurst Regional Gallery and in 2001 he was invited to lecture at the New York Studio School, Manhattan, USA. His artistic influence has also been furthered through the official roles in which he has serving, including his post as a member (appointed 1994) of the National Gallery of Australia’s Council and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the National Art School, Sydney (appointed 1998).
Lanceley has exhibited his work extensively since 1962 in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, and internationally in England, Switzerland, Belgium, USA, Poland and Japan. A large survey exhibition of Lanceley’s work was held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1987, followed by ‘Australian Collection Focus – Colin Lanceley’ in 2001. Lanceley’s work has also been included in several major group exhibitions including Perspecta at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1983, the Biennale of Sydney in 1986 and the Great Australian Art Exhibition in 1988.
Lanceley has received a range of awards during the course of his artistic career, including the Young Contemporaries Art Prize from the NSW Contemporary Art Society (1963), the Scottish Arts Council Prize at the 1967 Edinburgh Festival, two prizes at the 1968 Krakow International Print Biennale and the Europe Prize for Painting in Belgium in 1980. His artistic commissions have included designing mosaics for the Australian International Aquatic Centre, Homebush, Sydney (1994), painting the ceiling of the Lyric Theatre, Sydney (1998) and creating a large glass work for the County Court of Victoria, Melbourne (2002).
Lanceley’s iconic and brightly coloured works, presenting abstract scenes built up from fractured geometric shapes, incorporate three-dimensional crafted and painted wood elements fixed to canvas supports. Collage has served as the recurring basis of his work, which has also been inspired by literary sources, for example the writings of T.S. Eliot.
The art of Colin Lanceley is represented in prominent Australian and international collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Bezalel National Museum, Jerusalem; Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, France; Contemporary Art Society and the Tate Gallery, London, England; Kunstvrein, Hamburg, Germany; Museum Narodowe, Warsaw, Poland; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and The National Gallery, Washington, USA.