Today I met Lillian Addie, a 25-year-old artist who is having her first exhibit at the lovely Shirley Burke gallery in Parkdale, a seaside suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Lillian’s paintings follow the traditions of modernism and abstract art.
She tells the story of her life through her paintings, expressing her deep affection for people and places in abstract patterns and lines overlaying unseen figures beneath.
Her body of work follows, to some extent, in the footsteps of Howard Arkley and his paintings of suburbia — slightly odd and strangely interesting.
Lillian was born in Melbourne, where she was a passionate ballet dancer while at school. However, she took up painting after sustaining an injury. She was encouraged to continue and eventually graduated from RMIT University with a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts.
Today, Lillian is a dedicated young artist who paints every day in her studio in Brunswick, Australia. She spends a considerable amount of her time studying old photographs and reading historical and philosophical texts by writers such as George Perec, Italo Calvino, and Maurice Halbwachs.
She stretches and prepares her own canvases, which gives her a feeling of being personally connected to each work. She starts with charcoal and spray paint as a base, and then works with oil, expressing her feelings about her subject with each medium.
To the uninitiated viewer, her results may appear to be a discombobulation of patterns and color. However, there is no gay abandonment in her work, but a concentrated thought process with each brush stroke.
Whichever way you look at her work, she is bravely exposing her own emotions to the public by highlighting the eternal struggle for identity, and exploring the quest for self-knowledge through the medium of paint.
“Know thyself” is generally attributed to Socrates, but research shows that it emerged from antiquity and runs like a thread through every race and culture, in every continent, and through every medium of creative art, be it painting, literature, performing arts, music, and even cooking.
Unlike the traditional Western art of the Renaissance period, which expresses the joy of the beauty of human form with realism and perspective, abstract art is pure emotion, which can leave the viewer at a loss to understand what is being conveyed without some guidance and verbal explanation. Examining the title of the painting can sometimes be of help.
For example, in Lillian’s painting Hidden Cat Tipping, it is not just random lines and colors, but on closer observation, a cat can be seen peeping out of the image. While not fully recognizable at first, one can make out the image on closer examination and while considering the title.
When asked about the image, the artist explained that she drew the cat first and then nearly covered it up completely. This work relays how the artist was feeling at the time — inadequacy and of not being good enough to embrace life to the fullest.
In The Pastel Castles on the Beach, the artist expresses childhood memories of the beach in Mentone, Australia and of the sand and building sand castles. One can almost smell the salt air and seaweed, and feel the warmth of the sunshine. The artist is looking at the sea and building abstractions from nature, as did Fred Williams, one of Australia’s foremost landscape artist.
If this exhibition does nothing else but motivate young artists to be brave and to make an effort to open their hearts to society, it will have been all worthwhile for Lillian.
Like a stone dropped in the proverbial pond, the ripples spread outward. Lillian’s goal is to travel the world and to get a proper job so she can continue to create art.
I waved goodbye to Lillian, and like a writer who can’t wait to put pen to paper, Lillian rushes back to her studio to put down her thoughts with a paintbrush surrounded by the comforting friendliness of her paints.
Lillian’s work has been featured at the following exhibitions:
- 2009 Sandringham College Arts Exhibition (Without Pier Gallery, Melbourne)
- 2012 Graduate Fine Art Painting Exhibition, Bachelor (RMIT, Melbourne)
- 2012 New Works by Lillian Addie and Mary Barton (Pop Up Shop, Collingwood)
- 2013 Fine Art Painting Graduate Exhibition, Honours (RMIT, Melbourne)
- 2014 Seeded Banksia of a Priceless Donkey (Hope Street Studios, Melbourne)
- 2014 Trophy Shop (Kings ARI, Melbourne)
- 2014 Incidents Above a Bar (The Alderman, Melbourne)
- 2014 Hope Works (Hope Street Studios, Melbourne)
- 2014 Work curated by Helen Johnson (Slopes Gallery, Melbourne)
- 2015 Show (4DVerse Gallery, Melbourne)