Anthony Lyttle (b.1960, Kenya) is a visual artist living in Co Carlow. His studio practice revolves around drawing, printmaking, collage and painting. He studied painting at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and an MA at the Byam Shaw, Central St Martins, London.

He is a lecturer at the Wexford Campus School of Art and Design, SETU. A former member of the Black Church Print Studio, Dublin and a founder member and past chairperson of The Independent Studio Artists Ltd, 11 and 16 Eustace St Temple Bar Dublin 2. He is currently a member of the 9 Stones Artists.

Recent exhibitions and projects include Exposition Livre Pauvre, Tours France, 2022, Microcosms, Chinon, France 2021, Here / THERE; An international cultural exchange between Ireland and Germany with joint group exhibitions of visual artists in Wexford, Berlin, Wuppertal, and the Rhineland, curated by Anya von Gosseln and Jurgen Grölle, 2020. Meander; Anthony Lyttle and Des Kenny Graphic Studio Gallery Dublin, 2019; The Lativa Museum of Art Riga, 2018,  Nine Stones Book Project, Visual Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow, 2019, Liminal States; A project involving residents of the Tramore Direct provision centre coordinated and led by artist Alanna O’Kelly. Printworks, Droichead Arts Centre, curated by Dorothy Smith, 2018; Par les Traits; Anthony Lyttle with Madlen Herrström, Exuo Gallery Tours, France.

Solo exhibitions include 2015; Thicket Cross Gallery, Francis Street Dublin, 2011; The White Mark Cross Gallery, Francis Street Dublin, 2012; Accumulation Visual Centre for Contemporary Art Carlow; 2007; Horizons Norman Gallery, Rathnure, Co Wexford 

“Anthony Lyttle's drawings hold vast reservoirs of feeling beneath the surface”

Ticket – Anthony Lyttle Cross Gallery, Dublin ****

Anthony Lyttle was born in Kisumu, Kenya, in 1960, but has spent most of his life in Ireland. He studied painting at NCAD and then, more recently, completed an MFA at Byam Shaw, Central St Martins, London. By then he was best known as a printmaker, having been a member of Blackchurch Print Studio from 1987. He lives in Co Carlow, and, appropriately enough, his benchmark exhibition, Accumulation, was held at Visual Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow in 2012 as part of Éigse. His finely detailed work flourished in the huge space of Visual’s main gallery.

It flourishes too in the Cross Gallery, where the mostly large pieces that make up his current show, Thicket, are installed. His works fall somewhere between painting and drawing, but lean more towards drawing. The densely patterned surfaces we encounter are cumulatively built up through the application of countless individual marks made on paper. It’s a slow, methodical, iterative process. He has remarked that the lengthy rhythm of the mark-making informs the eventual appearance of the compositions.

They are intricate, all-over compositions and can superficially appear as thoroughly orderly and even, as though they are woven on a loom. Weaving is certainly a good analogy and point of reference, but the works are less mathematically precise than that, and more organic in feeling. They also have a curious, flickering quality that derives from the way they’re built up from the give and take of marks made and marks cancelled: black over white over black over white, to put it at its simplest. So they have an in-between, uncertain quality that slightly unsettles the eye but also keeps it continually interested.

In addressing this ambiguity in his essay for Accumulation, Brian Garvey memorably described them as visualising “breakdown events”: moments “when one is on the borderline of fainting”, for example, when one’s normal grasp of things is on the point of dissolution or transformation. Yet their underlying agitation is smoothly contained by their cool, rhythmic structures. Temperamentally they are related to the work of Agnes Martin or Makiko Nakamura, who similarly embed vast reservoirs of feeling in beautiful, impassive surfaces: emotion recollected in tranquillity. Until February 28th,

Aidan Dunne, 2015
Irish Times

‘’Visualising the verbal’’

Accepting for the present that Anthony Lyttle’s drawings are pictures, what is it that they actually depict? They seem to accept images of heavy rain or perhaps more appropriately television static or light glitter from metallic or indeed the back wash from a ship. But quickly these image ascriptions seem to fail. The works refuse to offer a context to support rooms or landscapes and so rather, if anything, they initially suggest details or the movement of zooming in on the intensive of light flicker.

Bracketing for the moment the complex; the description of what one sees when encountering Anthony Lyttle’s 2012 exhibition “Accumulation” is a series of abstract drawings. This sense of the abstract is enforced by the minimal and almost geometric use of the recursive black and white points in regulative horizontal fields. The adherence to a logic of scale as derivative of the mathematical possibilities inherent in A2 pages also seems to bear this out. However, the tidiness of this description very quickly begins to feel more like a disguise. It draws attention to those elements which it cannot account for. In other words the drawings seem to be very inconsistent, in certain respects, in adopting this description. Principally there is a sense of expressive non-adherence which surfaces in each. This leads one to puzzle over what is ‘same’ among these works, how they constitute a series, and also how, by so doing, each one remains distinct. They do, however, all offer an experience of what might be called intensive flicker and an attendant stuttering movement.

This sense of intensive flicker and the rhythm inherent in it connect directly, on the one hand, to the materiality of the works’ production, and in a rather curious twist, also, on the other hand, to an escape from that process. Lyttle often foregrounds the role the process of actually making the works play as an active constituent in the works’ function(1). Their surfaces remind us of the time and physical effort spent in building up and dealing with the multitudinal and multidirectional repeated gestural marks. Beginning with the opaque surface of layout paper (2) Lyttle blacks out, point by point, the initial ground with black marker. Then at a certain stage white pigment is drawn over the black which both retains and partly destroys the preceding layer. These marks in their turn set off a ‘stuttering’ movement across the surface.(3) The resultant effect, for me at least, is a memory sense of those moments when one is on the borderline of fainting, a memory of the event of physiological breakdown.

This event seems caught up in the intensive relations set up by the repetition and direction of the marks on the paper. It is out of this melee of mark-making that a quite different and, in a certain sense, separate type of mark becomes apparent. Unlike the general marks which express a gesture in the trace of their movement, this other type appears less to be made but rather ‘organised’ out of what is going on around it.(4) These white, often cubic unspoilt windows, no larger than the white gestures that bop about them and no larger than the black marker darks that configure their walls, act as window or field points between the surface of the drawing and the walls upon which they hang. In other words, the intensive quality of the drawing is itself plugged into the spatial context of, in this case, the gallery. These ‘plug- in’ points must, on a theoretical level at the very least, open the work from the restrictions of its physical borders. Added to this breaking of confines the purity of these fields sets up a type of base rhythm that seems to underscore the images themselves. Through using ‘layout paper’ with its opaque and reflective surface as the main structural support, Lyttle then actualises this possibility inherent in the physical properties of the paper itself.

Speaking of the works in terms of a specific experience or ‘breakdown event’ risks annulling the differences between each drawing. Remaining faithful to the actual works and their use of repetition, however, I believe, will allow us to hold on to what is different within and between each piece. My ‘wager’ in other words is that the works can speak of their separate address to a shared problematic: an address which is also based on a shared rule and its methodological performance (5).

The shared problem or the common event that the works’ seem to posit is the nature of physiological breakdown which, as event, might be described as being at the border when one thing becomes something other. To me this ‘breakdown event’ (in a mechanical rather than psychological sense) by being extreme also condenses the identity of that which is undergoing the transformation (6). Lyttle`s work, in its rigorous adherence to an unstated rule, the rule that each image will consist only of the most basic gesture, itself repeated both in itself and across the paper and that the scale of the drawing will adhere to multiples of the A2 format, I believe implies what Deleuze means by an event which sets up series, each standing as a proposition to that event (7).

So on this reading what each of the works has in common is that they follow a rule which does not itself appear in any of the individual drawings, each drawing being a variation of this rule. In fact it is this rule of production which sets up the ‘sameness’ between them and the abstract quality of the series. However, it is also the repetition within this rule where difference appears. The rule sets in motion the repetition which each drawing employs to account for a specific type or form of activity where-by the repetition both discovers what is the essential logic of that activity and also begins to dissolve that essential logic.

An interesting and very important element of Lyttle`s work, both in this solo exhibition and also in the preceding one, “The White Mark,” (2011) is the role played by the titles of each drawing. Of the current work, for example, we have the drawings Interlock, 2012 and Accumulation, 2012, Fall, 2012, Weft ,2012 and White Spot, 2012. They can simultaneously be seen to name an activity as such, an activity in the infinite but also the result or product of that activity. For example the drawing Interlock is an initial pattern marked out by diagonal strips, iconographically similar to hyphens which repeat the gestural movement from left to right (as you look at the drawing). An additional element, a shorter ‘squat’ mark bridges the small distance between the longer and slightly more fluid horizontal hyphens. The drawing visualises the act of interlocking elements. The intensive quality of this repeated gesture, of a physical interlock, in combination with its title sets up a sort of hysterical re-iterance which both insists on the logic of the act and simultaneously pushes that logic into a new frame. From this perspective the drawing begins to appear as a diagrammatic map of the pure logic of the act or event of interlocking as such. Interspersed across the drawing are those small, rectangular windows or ‘plug- in’ points which set a tonal and intensive quality to the image. In this sense each of the drawings feels like the expression, in intensive but diagrammatic form, of the basic structure, perhaps the idealised structure, of activities which themselves point to the subversion or transformation or ‘break down’ of those actions themselves. While each drawing maps out the logic implicit to specific acts such as accumulation, each map is also, through its intensive coordinates, a gesture to the ‘breakdown’ endemic to action itself.

Brian Garvey, 2012
Publication, Cross Gallery, Dublin

1. See the press release to Anthony Lyttle’s solo exhibition “The White Mark”, 2011, held in the Cross Gallery, Dublin.
2. Layout paper is a relatively heavy, semi –transparent paper reminiscent of tracing paper used in putting together, for example, advertising images.
3. To a certain extent the visual effect of Lyttle’s work is reminiscent of Op Art`s experiments with the nature of visual perception and its love of the ‘retinal image’ as something separate but connected to the physical object. In Lyttle’s case, however, the works are closer to the collapse, rather than the sustenance of the visual stream.
4. Lyttle has taken further the function of this ‘structural element’ where, for example in a work like White Spot, 2012, he has punched small, and at times symmetrical holes, in the surface of the paper itself.
5. On the function of the Problematic see Sean Boiuden, (2011) The Priority of Events: Deleuze`s Logic of Sense, United Kingdom, Edinburgh University Press.
6. By mechanical breakdown I’m attempting to indicate the type of technological stress a machine undergoes when faced with something more intensive than its design had foreseen. For example when a digital camera, facing the intensity of extreme brightness, processes the information in grades of diluted colour up to a flat whiteness.
7. See Deleuze & Parnet, (2007) Dialogues, New York, Columbia University Press. A{/slideshow}mong the many topics discussed, Deleuze looks at how the infinitive form of the verb acknowledges impassive and impersonal events on the surface of things. He uses the example of ‘to turn green’ which indicates an event which exists prior to being attributed to a specific state of affairs.