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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Camilla Lyon: a space to reflect

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    18 Sep

    Camilla Lyon is one of two artists whose work is in the current New Hall Art Collection Exhibition, Reproductivities. The last 50 years has seen a revolution in the way plant and human life is reproduced. Each artist has created a personal interpretation of these dramatic changes. 

    Five of Camilla’s monumental art works hang high in the domed Dining Hall with the sixth hanging in the Walkway, the main route running through our white brick modernist building.

    Camilla has a love of modernist architecture and of gardens both of which she found at Murray Edwards College when she needed space to reflect. In the summers of 2016,17,18, she had a residency at the College.  This was a time when she was receiving IVF treatment, a procedure which Camilla says, “happens internally, there is nothing to show for it.” She wanted to “make work alongside it, to make a visual representation of what was happening to me.”

    She reflects in her work the interplay of the natural gardens allowed to run wild, with the clean lines, the linear elements, the sculptured shapes of the buildings. She compares that relationship to informal, natural conception versus the cultured, abstract aspects of IVF - balancing the natural creation against the contrived process.

    Preliminary drawings of plants and architectural forms were made on site; the monumental painting was undertaken in her studio. Camilla creates her paintings by folding her paper, drawing on the topside and, by using carbon paper, replicating it on the bottom side so that an exact mirror image is achieved when the paper is unfolded.  The centre of each work is a large circular motif, a strong image, empty or filled perhaps with fiery red or with cooler grey.  Do these motifs represent a void, the egg, the sun?  Around the circle are drawings of plants and of abstract elements of the buildings, the two sometimes intermixed when the paper unfolds.  Camilla adds colour to this initial design with expressive, gestural strokes of watercolour paint which, given the scale of the final work, becomes a physical process involving the whole body not just the hand.

    Camilla believes that working through the creative process gave her a different way of looking at her situation. Similarly, she believes that looking at art can give people another perspective and hopes that, as a result of this exhibition, students, Fellows and visitors to Murray Edwards might see themselves, the College, the gardens and IVF in a different light. 

    To find out more about the Collection, please see