Lincoln Townley, artist

I'm interested in risk takers, wheelers and dealers, movers and shakers – people who go out there in life and go for broke ...

When starting out in any career, it’s a challenge to get your foot in the door and rejection is never easy to stomach – especially when you find yourself getting knocked back several times in a short time span. For artist Lincoln Townley, it was difficult to find commercial galleries that would accept his visceral style of work. After meeting nothing but dead ends, Lincoln decided to circumvent the gallery process entirely, eventually finding success through a combination of self marketing and undeniable talent. Lincoln is now one of the most acclaimed artists working today, with a loyal following of celebrity clients and fans. Lincoln Townley will be bringing The Surprise Collection – a showcase of his latest work – to Brisbane Powerhouse from Thursday August 17. Ahead of the exhibition’s launch, we chatted with Lincoln about his style, his perseverance and the path to becoming an icon.

What first inspired you to start conveying your thoughts and concepts into visual art?
I have always painted since I was a child. Using my spare time to paint and create, it’s only in the past six years when I wanted paint as a profession that I’ve reached into my subconscious and become interested in painting what I see as the energy we need to be successful. I’m intrigued by what’s makes us push ourselves to the limits to gain notoriety.

You forged your own path to success outside of the conservative art establishment, what did this teach you in regards to finding your place and audience in the world of modern art?
I had a vision six years ago – I decided that I would look beyond conventional ‘art buyers’ and search out people who have the same desires for achievements as I do and present them my work. I didn’t feel I needed a gallery solely to do this as I lean heavily into alternate marketing and positioning strategies and it’s worked. Now, I have some of the most intriguing people in the world collecting my art so the ‘traditional art world’ can watch and wonder. I have no desire to be part of something so ancient in their ways and so unwilling to change and evolve.

What ideas and themes do you prefer exploring in your art process?
I’m interested in risk takers, wheelers and dealers, movers and shakers – people who go out there in life and go for broke. They are the themes of my life – to explore what we can really get out of this one life we have. Why wouldn’t anyone be willing to give it their all? 

We are beyond excited for the arrival of your exhibition The Surprise Collection next month! Without giving too much away, what can audiences expect to see in the exhibition?
They will see a contrast of famous faces which are my ICONS collection and the darker side of my work, which looks at what drives us and what we must go through to become iconic in whichever industry we work in and – just as important – how we sustain the iconic stature. Every famous person I have painted have very often had many dark times, though they’ve kept going driving themselves to become the icon they deserve to be. 

The Surprise Collection looks at descending into darkness and the struggle for success and power – what were some of the dark moments you had to overcome in order to be accepted and gain recognition?
I have a documentary I am working on called 93 Nos, which shows the foundation of what I’ve been through to get to where I am. The title refers to the amount of galleries that said ‘no’, and this is the true nature of my work. I look forward to people saying no to me as I know this brings me closer to a yes. The only difference is now most galleries and collectors say yes!

How do you go about getting in a suitable mind-set to convey such visceral concepts?
I spend days looked in my studio, pacing around, applying paint, constantly thinking of what drives me to give my work so much of myself and to apply this on the canvas. When I create the famous faces in the ICONS portraits, I spend days looking into the subject and looking for the many things that define them as an icon to give me a basis for the piece.  

Sir Michael Caine has described you as the next Andy Warhol, which is high praise from anyone, let along Sir Michael! What are your thoughts on such commendations, particularly after being rejected in your early days as an artist?
It’s a magical statement from Michael and I’m honoured. I have a feeling though that my work will far exceed that of Warhol, but hey – that’s just my opinion! 

You’ve done many portrait works of notable celebrities – what is it about these personalities that resonate enough with you to want to immortalise them in art?
I look into who they really are, and I’m searching constantly as I create the portrait to see if I can find that something special that encapsulates all they have driven themselves to become. I am intrigued by their lives and do my best to give them the glory they deserve. 

Who is one public figure that you would love to paint a portrait of in the future?
I am actually painting them now, but alas I can’t say who it is. It’s a big one!

What is something that is currently inspiring you in work and life?
I’m inspired by the thought that one day my way of marketing and driving sales of my work will help young artists entering this extremely difficult profession make a living from their work so they can expand and enjoy what I have been fortunate enough to have.

Examine Lincoln Townley’s work when The Surprise Collection arrives at Brisbane Powerhouse from Thursday August 17 to Sunday October 1. 


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