Lincoln Seligman’s colour-drenched celebrations of place and people take us across the globe, but in this exhibition we are mainly in India.
Seligman finds colour everywhere, as a lucky bee finds pollen. His Pondicherry is pink; his Jodhpur crimson; his Varanasi, the funeral city on the Ganges, flickers in reds and golds that catch the eye and confront mortality.
Seligman did not go to art school, but trained as a lawyer and came to specialise in the law of the world’s shipping and seaways.
From handling those large purses and high quarrels something in him flipped, and Seligman, then in his thirties, moved into big-budget buildings, not as a lawyer but as the designer of the kind of elegant plaza artworks that demanded an instinctive understanding of volume and colour. Their scale also demanded a good grasp of contract law.
The giant relief sculptures he made in the 1980s and 1990s share Broadgate’s space in London with grand masters of scale such as Jim Dine, Richard Serra and Allen Jones, while his space-devouring mobiles give a nod to Alexander Calder.
Seligman stands shoulder-to-shoulder with these wizards of space exploration - his mobiles turn gracefully in the upper levels of the City, in the Swires and Cathay buildings in Hong Kong, and his three-dimensional murals articulate the atria of many airports, hotels and banks whose skyscrapers prick world cities’ skylines.
While these grand works were proceeding, Seligman was beginning to capture the magic of the paintbrush and the colours it could command.
Following his tremendous leap between maritime law and flights of defiance against architectural gravity, we may come to see Seligman’s further leap into paintings of modest domestic scale and high colour as a wholly predictable event.
His forts and palaces of India soften in the light, his abstract swathes of turban-cloth weave across the picture-plane, while his panoply of orange and vermilion carpets, and the cushioned contours of a dusty ochre dawn, all catch the eye and warm the heart. No art school could have contained Lincoln Seligman.
He has chosen a freedom to roam far from the well-padded tracks of an orthodox art career, and to follow his own compass bearings.
James Hamilton, 2023