Lar Cann lives and works close by the world heritage site of the Phoenix Mine and Cheesewring Quarry on the Caradon Hill mining complex of South East Cornwall.
For nearly two decades the granite quarries of South West England’s Bodmin Moor, amongst others from further afield, have provided a visual stimulus. There is a constant source of information to be found with endless variations of texture and geometry in their eroded faces, riven by faults in the geological structure and further duplicated in the reflections of their water-filled depths. The planar composition of the work is usually based on references to this aspect of Cornwall’s geology, though certainly not always.
His work is held in Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, the Royal Institution of Cornwall, the University of Sheffield Heritage Collections and by the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital Trust, as well as numerous private collections in the UK and worldwide.
‘I believe there is no place in the world which excels Cornwall in the quantity and variety of its minerals and confess I have found here a mining school, and from being a teacher am become a scholar.’
M. H. Klaproth, 1798 (translated by J. G. Groschke)
“The region has been my home since the turn of the 1970s: the accrued understanding of its landscape over the years, this acquaintance with the place is fundamental to the synthesis and the process of making pictures. It will be an often-remembered, often-visited, part of the continuum. Casual visits to a site are not enough for me. I need a longer time to work at it. This is probably as much to do with over-dependence of the ephemeral in an image as my loss of the familiar and the understanding of what has gone before. A conversation with a neighbour, for example, might sometimes give a surprising insight as to why things appear like they do. As a consequence it allows me to view things differently, with an altered sympathy. Similarly, but more specifically, some eight or so years ago I had the good fortune to be allowed a guided walk around the De Lank Quarry by a master mason who had worked there for more than forty-five years. I had known the place from a long while before that but, as might be supposed, his knowledge of the quarry and its history was considerable and I was able to get a rare insight into the industrial workings to support an understanding of what has long engaged me visually. The gestalt is the essence of the process.
This use of the landscape, or more precisely the hidden world of landscape revealed by anthropologic activity is one point of reference. My primary concern is the exploration of colour and texture on the picture plane, heavily dependent on observation of natural colour relationships and of qualities of surface, to the point where these become the subject of the work. Reference to scale is deliberately avoided in order to allow these characteristics to predominate.
Mineralogy and the hidden world to be found in these landscapes-in-miniature are a parallel theme: the colour influences usually come from observation of a collection principally unearthed and scavenged from the spoil heaps of Cornwall’s disused mines and mining heritage. I will happily mix the two sources, cavalier-like and irrespective of its scientific accuracy, even resorting to juxtaposing and mixing two or more colours from unrelated minerals. But this is always for the sake of the painting’s composition: it is a response to rather than a recording of. These references are often made in conjunction with the matrix of rock in which they are found. It is the natural relationships that help bring a rationale to the compositions. The colours may well get modified in qualities of saturation and tone during the picture making process, but without direct observation of the specimens the work could not evolve as it does.”