Art that moves : the work of Len Lye by Roger Horrocks

By Roger Horrocks

"One of the main unique artists to have emerged from New Zealand, Len Lye (1901-1980) had a fondness for circulation from an early age. This fascination formed his pressing and pioneering movies and kinetic sculptures and contributed to his notable paintings in portray, images and writing. Lye had an immense inspiration -- that flow may be the foundation for a totally new form of artwork -- and he committed a lot of his lifestyles to it. Read more...


'Kinetic artwork is the 1st new class of paintings on the grounds that prehistory', ex-pat New Zealand artist Len Lye boldly claimed in an essay in 1964. What did he suggest by means of this? and the way does his personal paintings in sculpture Read more...

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Sample text

In the library he discovered modernism and was hugely excited by it. Today, in the Internet age, it is important to realise how slowly information about modern forms of art circulated during the first decades of the 20th century. An artist in a small, marginal country like New Zealand had only a few fragments of the jigsaw. There were no modern paintings on display, and only a few black and white reproductions in print. Many of the newspaper and magazine stories about modern art were scornful, but Lye became adept at reading between the lines.

Films seriously influenced by modern art were still a rarity, and though viewers were intrigued, they were not sure how to talk about Six frames from Tusalava, 1929. The sequence reads from left to right. Courtesy Len Lye Foundation. Lye made this monkey in 1934 for his puppet animation film Peanut Vendor. Courtesy Len Lye Foundation. 52 this unique film or how to contextualise it. Other films could be linked with groups such as the Dadaists, the Surrealists or the Bauhaus. Their images tended to be urban, contemporary, geometrical or machine-like, or based on intellectual concepts and word-play, whereas Lye’s work evoked nature, ancient traditions of art and organic forms of life, with a strong sense of physicality and no words.

London 48 At first he had tried to find a ship going to Moscow, but for an artist from New Zealand there was a kind of ironic inevitability about ending up in London, centre of the British Empire. Twenty-five years old when he arrived, Lye saw himself as a late developer in comparison with his precocious heroes, the sculptor GaudierBrzeska and the poet Arthur Rimbaud. But any delay was partly a consequence of growing up so far from Europe. Fully developing his idea of kinetic art depended upon modern technology that was still beyond his means, and so far he had focused mostly on ancient, hand-made forms of art.

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