Former ad man Josh Lancaster to hold debut solo exhibition

Former Kiwi adman turned full-time artist, Josh Lancaster, will have an exhibition of his painting at the Smyth Galleries on Auckland's Jervois Road for the next three weeks.

This, his first solo exhibition, marks a significant milestone for Lancaster, who previously worked as a creative director at Assignment Group before leaving the industry to pursue a full-time career in art.

The exhibition, dubbed ‘The Regulars’, will feature a series of original artworks of well-known local haunts (in a similar vein to the SPQR piece he previously painted for Colenso BBDO's former chief executive Nick Garrett upon his departure).

“The imagery in the paintings is hyper-local,” Lancaster says.

“I love the idea of places we define as ‘ours’. This could be a restaurant, a coffee shop or a dairy.”

Lancaster says that while none of his pieces depict people, he hopes the various locations strike a personal chord with those who see his paintings.

He says that the aim is really to remind people of a lunch, dinner or coffee that they may have had in the area.

“The art might not have people, but it is very much about people,” he says.

While discussing his art, Lancaster stops himself, saying that he doesn’t actually like to over-explain what he’s done.

“Art is a lot like advertising in this sense,” he says.

“This was something I learnt from Philip Andrew [now at Assignment Group] back in the day,” Lancaster says.

“If Jamie [Hitchcock] and I tried to explain an idea to him, he would tell us to stop and then ask: ‘So, are you guys going to stand next to this piece of work and explain it to everyone who sees it on the street?’”

Lancaster says that this is a lesson he continues to apply to his art today, saying that the work really needs to speak for itself.

Since leaving advertising six months ago, Lancaster says he has made a “clean break”, selling his home in Auckland and moving down to Hawke’s Bay.

While Lancaster has decided to cut free from advertising, he is still willing to work with them in his capacity as an artist.

“I’ve done a few projects,” he says. “I painted a wok for Tiger Beer, I did a run of prints for Lewis Road Creamery and I also did an egg for Whittaker’s last year.”

This does not, however, mean that Lancaster is available for freelancing. He’s not looking for briefs or to solve client problems at this stage.

“I really want to give painting a real shot.”

Like many creatives in ad land, Lancaster would feed his passion in the evenings after work, painting in his spare time.

Lancaster says that while there has been a big socio-economic adjustment since taking the plunge, his happiness level has greatly increased on account of having much more time to spend with his three children.

Another adjustment Lancaster has faced since focusing on his art lies in the fact that he’s essentially become a solo act.

He says that one thing he really misses about adland is going to the office every day to work with a collection of very creative and funny people.

But this obviously hasn’t stopped him from producing an impressive collection of pieces for the Smyth Gallery.

So what does his first exhibition mean to him?

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” he says.  

“I just have this weird strain of adrenaline. It’s not like being chased. I’ve had that before. This is really sweet.”

This story originally appeared on StopPress