Lye made paintings throughout his career.  He began as a teenager producing oil paintings, then in London in the 1920s he made batiks at the Footsteps Studio of Celandine Kennington.  These were included in annual exhibitions of the Seven and Five Society and in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London. Lye had two other concentrated periods of painting – in New York in the 1940s and in Puerto Rico in the last years of his life.  Many of his batiks and paintings are about nature – rays, galaxies, primeval plants and other organic forms.  They were “personifications of energy” which sought to evoke the “magic of nature.”

Lye used “doodles” as a starting point for many of his paintings, as a way of generating images that were mysterious and intriguing.  He spoke of “the Old Brain” as their source and speculated about whether they contained genetic information by unconsciously echoing microscopic forms or images from the history of human evolution.

Discussing these myth–like paintings he remarked:  “The task of fine-art myth is to symbolise humanity’s ties to nature and to one another.”

Photo Gallery: Paintings

<em>Family Conference</em>, 1977, acrylic on canvas
<em>King of Plants Meets the First Man</em>, 1936, oil
<em>Polynesian Connection</em>, 1979, acrylic on canvas
<em>Snow Birds Making Snow</em>, 1936, oil on hardboard
<em>Tree People</em>, 1947, oil painting