Kevin Lincoln, Self portrait with bird skull, 2008, oil on linen, 91 x 173cm
is pleased to present
13 - 31 January 2009
Approach the paintings of Kevin Lincoln with reverence. They are like an altar to the gods of elegance, restraint and contemplation. They tell epic tales of struggle between light and dark, truth and mystery, love and tragedy.
A melancholy fog wafts across the canvas but is gently penetrated by a soft vibrating light from within the painting. Sometimes barely perceptible, it emanates from between the blocks of colour, blurring the distinction between the edges of the typically dark palette. There is no silence, but a poetic quietness that awakens our senses to reveal possibilities within the shadows.
Lincoln's current oeuvre is predominated by large abstract canvases, punctuated with sublime still-life works and tough, unforgiving self-portraits. Often multi-panelled works, they unfold unexpectedly across a wall, the tiny spaces between each panel holding as much significance as the fuzzy gap between the large planes of colour.
Ghosts of still-life are held within the minimal abstracts. The sensuous curve is perhaps a detail of the edge of a bowl against a vase, or the strong horizontal line where a bottle sits on a table. But they need not be read as such, the artist instead demands that we allow the weight within each work to take hold, feel the density of each colour, each form and take the time to allow a response to develop with us. Lincoln's paintings are not a quick fix -- they are breathtakingly obtuse.
Generally more textured than the meticulous surfaces of the abstract paintings, the elements in the still-life paintings have a disconcerting solidity against the indistinct glowing backgrounds on which they sit. Like a miracle, wine and fishes hover in an apparition on the canvas. The intimacy engendered, even in the most expansive of the still-life paintings, is borne from the personal references the artist places within each work. An invitation to the exhibition of an admired artist, a familiar pot from the artist's collection, a bowl of figs or a shiny aubergine bought for lunch, these items are as much a glimpse into the artist's life as the shadowy self-portrait reflected in a mirror.
Self-portraiture is surely the most revealing of all genres. Lincoln's self portraits are haunting. Developed in a series called Painting at Night, they have an immediacy that is perhaps a representation of the fleeting nature of artistic endeavour. Inspiration must be caught and used before it disappears into the ether of opportunity lost. Somehow in these paintings, one senses that a hard shell has formed around the soul to protect it from the vagaries of unknowledgeable criticism or fleeting appreciation. Artistic sensitivies are subject to much abuse, probably more from oneself than any art historian, and it is in these brutal self portraits that the artist's harshest critic is given room to vent his spleen. But dig deep beneath that crusty surface and a gentle, quiet confidence is modestly present.
Lincoln was born into a large working-class family in Hobart, Tasmania in 1941. Showing talent as a young boy he attended Saturday morning art classes, which apart from some occasional attendance at life-drawing classes is the only formal art education Lincoln received. After leaving school at fifteen he worked in various jobs with display departments and advertising studios both in Hobart and Melbourne and later as a boilermaker/welder and picture framer. A member of the Social Realist group in Melbourne, Lincoln exhibited prints and drawings of factory workers in annual shows in the late 1960s. His first solo exhibition was at Toorak Galleries in 1975 and he now exhibits regularly in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Also an accomplished printmaker, his etchings and lithographs are shown at the Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne.
In 1990, a survey exhibition, Kevin Lincoln - Paintings and Drawings from the Eighties was held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Tasmania and toured regional galleries in Victoria. Curated into important group exhibitions such as Phenomena - New Painting in Australia: 1 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and Intimate Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Lincoln's importance as a contemporary artist is well recognised. His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales and other major public and private collections throughout Australia and overseas.
In an interview with Gary Catalano1, Lincoln quotes a favourite sentence by George Johnson2 which he copied into a notebook: '…and since he was no longer listening the way he had to listen if I told him, I didn't tell him'. This is the viewer's warning to pay attention, to listen or you just won't 'get it'. But allow time for the senses to develop, reflect, contemplate and you will be richer for the experience.
1 Gary Catalano, 'Interview with Kevin Lincoln', Art & Australia, vol. 36 no. 2, 1998
2 George Johnston, Clean Straw for Nothing, Collins, Melbourne, 1969, p.9
A fully illustrated colour catalogue is available
For $11 plus postage and handling
Please join the artist for opening drinks on
Tuesday 20 January 2009 from 6.00pm