ALIENS, dinosaurs and King Kong invade the Grand Opera House box office as York artist Lincoln Lightfoot explores surrealist concepts reminiscent of the absurdist poster art for the Fifties and Sixties’ B-movie fixation with comical science-fiction disasters.
Depicting unusual happenings with large beasts, staged in familiar settings and on iconic architecture, from York Minster to the Angel of the North, Lightfoot’s artwork escapes from everyday problems to tap into the fears perpetuated by the news media and politicians alike in a post Covid-19 world.
Lightfoot’s paintings parody religious apocalyptic scenes circa 1800, such as the work of John Martin, while his storybook illustrations explore detailed pen work and bright block colour.
Lightfoot’s journey into the fantastical began while studying Fine Art at York St John University. After achieving a PGCE in art, craft and design and leading an art & design department in a north-eastern school, he is pursuing his love for art and the surreal full time, showcasing his work in such York exhibitions as Under Siege and Revelation. Now his paintings are just the ticket for theatregoers in Cumberland Street.
As past and future collide in Lincoln Lightfoot’s art for today, CharlesHutchPress heads out into the maelstrom to track down the visionary artist among the marauding T-Rex
What inspired such nightmare visions of York and the north in your paintings, Lincoln?
“During the late B-Movie era, the Cold War kept us in perpetual fear of extinction from nuclear Armageddon until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.
“Today we have growing similarities re-emerging due to the conflict in the Ukraine, which threatens to spill over into the wider world. Through engagement with art, we can deal with these nightmares.
“Children confront and make sense of a dangerous world through stories and rhymes and are taught of danger through the safe spaces of literature and illustration, which deal with anecdote and myth.”
How does your art respond to that world?
“My artworks attempt to highlight these fears through a safe and comical lens. Juxtaposed with scenes of our storybook city, it’s not hard to imagine incredible things happening in this part of the world because they already have.
“Walking through York’s streets and passageways, our past heritage resonates in the present. Popular with shoppers and scholars alike, high art co-exists with popular culture.”
How did this Grand Opera House exhibition come about?
“I was fortunate enough to be approached by Allie Long, who works for the Opera House. She invited me to exhibit. She has a collection of my work at home, and when the opportunity arose to fill the box office with artwork, she thought my work would be a good fit. On show is a collection of three large oil paintings from my Revelation exhibition that showed at Micklegate Social last May.”
Do you go to the theatre…or are you more of a movie man, given that your images have a cinematic quality?
“As a child I attended a lot of theatre productions. My dad was heavily involved in theatrical groups and my brother and I attended Stagecoach, where we would have drama, dance and singing lessons.
“It opened many doors for me and I had the opportunity to perform as one of the Snow Children in Carousel at the Darlington Hippodrome Theatre and did some smaller production too.
“Unfortunately, it failed to make any sort of long-term impact, but I do still enjoy going to the theatre. I would say that I’m probably more of a movie man, but this may be down to the accessibility and what can be achieved in film. I still really enjoy the theatre and intend to attend more.”
What exhibitions are coming up for you in 2023? York Open Studios, perhaps?
“Yes, I’ll be taking part in York Open Studios 2023! This should be an opportunity for visitors to my studio, in Brunswick Street, to engage with some new large paintings!
“I’m hoping to have a large solo exhibition in the summer, which will debut a new series, alongside some old favourites and potentially some 3D pieces. I’m toying with a couple of venues but need a large space. Any one of the empty buildings in town would be amazing, so if anyone has any venue ideas, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I also have work exhibiting alongside two more York artists in The Arthouse [fellow artist Sharon McDonagh’s holiday let in a Victorian terraced house in Railway Terrace, Holgate, York].”
You are developing a new series of works created in oil on circular boards. What do you like about this design shape?
“I’ve chosen to pursue creating circular pieces as initially this was something new and exciting that I haven’t attempted before. I feel that the circle has certain biblical connotations and hope that it will lend itself to a heightened sense of mystery.
“I’m even toying with the idea of incorporating gold leaf into those sickly yellow skies but am yet to experiment with this. A lot of these pieces will involve writhing tentacles and the circular shape should complement the rhythm created within.
“I initially came up with the idea when studying Caravaggio’s Medusa’. I’m hoping to replicate some of the style without the violence. Any violence would merely be suggested. I’m still hoping to suggest science-fiction comedy.
“I’ve fallen in love with the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea poster and now have the French version hanging in my bathroom. I’m sure this will inspire some of the imagery.”
How does the circular differ in impact from the rectangular?
“The use of circular boards breaks away from the expected. You’re immediately dealing with different rules of composition. What is aesthetically pleasing in a rectangle may not be in a circle and vice versa, for example.”
Will the design influence the subject matter too?
“I’m intending to return to and improve a successful line of illustrations, which I’ve informally entitled the ‘It Came From…’ series. So, there’ll be some familiar ideas and imagery but hopefully executed in a more compelling way. There’ll also be some new ideas too.”
Under what title will you exhibit these new works?
“I’m hoping to show them under the title ‘Encircled’ (inspired, I know!) this summer. I do have a number of venues in mind. I love the space in the Den at Micklegate Social and feel it fits the vibe of my work extremely well.
“It may be that these circular pieces make their debuts as Encircled and that my entire collection is exhibited in a large gallery setting alongside illustration, large murals and 3D pieces.”
Lincoln Lightfoot is exhibiting in the Grand Opera House box office, in Cumberland Street, York, until May 31. The box office is open 90 minutes before each show.
LINCOLN Lightfoot will present a 90-minute Grand Opera House Creative Learning artist talk and workshop on May 4 at 6pm. Tickets can be booked at: atgtickets.com/shows/artist-talk-and-workshop-with-lincoln-lightfoot/grand-opera-house-york/.