Q&A with Lilli Stromland


Q. Tell us about your latest series of works…

It’s a series of still lifes of my kitchen painted in my kitchen.

Q. Your last series with Collab featured entirely outdoor garden scenes what drew you into the kitchen to create this body of work?

I like to paint from life, so my immediate surroundings are always the subject of my work. For my garden series, for example, I painted from a granny flat at home that looks out onto the garden.

The kitchen series was born originally out of a workshop I did in the summer with the artist Roger Crawford, where my immediate surrounds were a church hall with a small kitchenette. Gravitating towards the collection of objects at the kitchenette, I came away at the end of the week with a painting of a microwave. At home, my love of cooking means I am always in the kitchen, and so the transition into painting kitchen scenes was an easy and exciting one for me.

Q. Talk us through your artistic process...

My process begins by tinkering around the kitchen, either deliberately looking for a collection of objects and surfaces that catch my eye, or pulling together my own compositions until something sticks. I want there to be an element that will make the audience pause. In some cases this means bringing together discordant items into unusual arrangements. Once I've decided on a composition I can begin to paint!

All the paintings in this series begin with a dusty pink ground, over which I draw in the composition. I then paint in the rest of the work quickly, usually in one or two sittings. From there I like to leave the work for a week or two and keep it somewhere I can look at it often. I feel like this pause in the painting is essential. I can then confidently come back in for final tweaks, add or change parts of the work. Sometimes I sand back parts of the work, or rub areas off with solvent and a rag, before working back into it. I like to let the painting dictate what it needs at these final stages. I know when it is finished when I don't want to change anything.  

I want there to be an element that will make the audience pause. In some cases this means bringing together discordant items into unusual arrangements. 

Q. Your new work oscillates between traditional compositional arrangements and more playful perspectives. What’s driving this compositional experimentation?

My drive is exactly as you say – to experiment. I feel that trying out different approaches is essential to developing of an understanding of what my work means to me, and how I want to convey my thoughts.

For the more playful perspectives, I was influenced by a painting I saw at the AGNSW: John Brack The Breakfast Table (1958). Brack flattens the top of the table, so that it tilts forward at an angle, which should spill the cutlery straight off the front. However the dishes, knives, forks and glasses defy gravity and hold their position. I love the tension that this creates, and I'm taken by Brack's manipulation of space and weight within the painting.

I'm also enamoured by the traditional compositions by Morandi. In his paintings each object is firmly linked to the next as well as its environment via line and shape.

Q. Who or what are some of your other artistic inspirations?

Cooking and being in my kitchen is very inspiring for me. Seeing arrangements and playing with potential compositions on a daily basis is essential to keeping a lively and personal relationship with the making of my work.

As mentioned, Brack and Morandi's still lifes have been an inspiration but I have also been looking a lot at Cezanne and Gauguin; Cezanne for his playful perspectives; and Gauguin’s ability to divide the canvass with shapes of negative space.

Seeing shows in the flesh is also a massive inspiration, especially painting shows. I love to see how other people paint, and digital images or photographs don't always let you see that.

Q. When you're not painting what do you get up to?

I work teaching art to kids and as an art assistant at a high school. I also like to travel, indulge in food with my family, hang out with my dog Smudge, mediate, do yoga and ballet, and read books recommended by my boyfriend.

Q: What’s coming up next on the horizon? 

After my Viewing Day with Collab I've got a show in November at Sheffer Gallery with a talented friend from art school, Randy Smeros.