Australian artist Grace Lila is a connoisseur of translating emotional energies into expressive forms on canvas. Her compositions are personal, yet also familiar, as she channels her innermost prevalent thoughts and past traumas into sensitive and telling identities for all to see. Calling on her current state and life experiences is the center of her process and also serves as a curative exercise.
Lila’s frequent references to the emotions that stemmed from her traumatic upbringing are varying in imagery and matter. Her experience as an adoptee, growing up in a domestic violence household, fleeing a domestic violence relationship, the subject of body image, and other intimate stories of her survival are just several of the narratives she paints. With the oils she loves dearly, Lila continually dives deep, and presents the reality of how thought-provoking and relatable art can really be by artists who bare it all. “I would like to become a voice to inspire others who are in these really dark places,” she says. “I’ve come out of it and I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”
In addition to her artistic talents, Lila also practices as a counselor, beauty therapist, and technician. She admits her genetics are the probable origin of her creativity because although her adoptive family lacks all interest for the arts, her biological family is flooded by Dutch painters, actors, and opera singers.
Since it’s Mental Health Awareness month, we asked Grace Lila a couple of questions pertaining to her creative and emotional expressive tendencies.
You’ve said that your paintings come from the depths of your psyche. What are the variations in which you express your psyche?
I seem to express the traumatic or distressing parts of my psyche, and it is almost always conveyed as it is or how I wished it was.
How do these depictions impact your comfortability with creative and emotional expression?
My mark making varies depending on the emotions I am trying to express, I can use very frenetic motions especially in the initial stages of a painting when I need to push the emotion out. I also use a variety of objects which are indicative of the particular emotion I am trying to convey.
Would you consider your art to be a safe space for others who’ve experienced similar life experiences and challenges that you have?
I believe my work is relatable to most people’s experiences and challenges in their own lives, even if they prefer, sometimes unknowingly to avoid those parts, it is inevitable that they have felt those emotions at some stage. I do believe my work is a safe place, as it can bring about a feeling of not being alone, that someone understands and really knows how it feels.
Are there any lessons in your art that you hope viewers will understand or perhaps learn from?
Absolutely! The person who painted those works has in fact come through those emotions to the other side, and now able to function and express themselves in a safe way. There is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s not always easy getting there and it takes hard work to get there. One important step is being able to be truly honest with your own self. That’s a big one. For me it was.
How has the meaning of your art changed overtime – if at all? Are there specific developments that signify a special change or revelation in your life as–not just an artist–but a human being as well?
After a particularly difficult painting emotionally, I will often retreat into a beautiful landscape scene to rest my mind and bring myself back into the moment.
Do you always consider art to be a healing, therapeutic process or do you experience hindrances too?
Yes. I believe art is healing and therapeutic. Like everything we do, there will always be hindrances. At each level of competence, there are always challenges as you better yourself. These aren’t negative things, as people at this point may think, these are the signs of improvement. Most people stop at this point, but, that’s the time of you plunge ahead that you then jump to the next stage. I believe This to be relevant in all aspects of life, emotionally and physically.
It is mental health awareness month. Do you have any plans to involve yourself or your art in this period – if so, how?
Of course. This is a time to remind ourselves that others may need support. This is a time to reflect on the important and basic needs of life. This is a time to check in on others and ask the hard questions. The art I am working on at the moment is about empowering women, we are all beautiful.
How do you practice self-care and how do you think other artists can do the same?
Self-care for me is taking time out to reflect on myself. I strive to be the best version of myself. I have a love of animals, and gardening, so that’s what I do. I’d imagine other artists would do the same.
What is your favorite part about being an artist?
For some reason, artists are allowed to be a little kooky. So it suits me fine. I am a very expressive person.
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Do you have anything else you would like to add about yourself or the topics mentioned (ex: creative and emotional expression, mental health awareness, personal obstacles and methods to express and/or overcome)?
Art in all forms is an expression. Creating and viewing art is a safe place to express.