Lily Simonson, “Turtle Rock, Antarctica”, 2016.
Lily Simonson is a bold colorist whose new paintings invites viewers into the little known beauty of sea expeditions. Translucent textures and images give new life to sea butterflies and glaciers viewed from below, all as luminous as rainbows. In her exhibition Midnight Sun, on view at CB1 Gallery in Downtown L.A. until May 29, 2016, Simonson’s passion for the sea is on full display, her works reveling in nature’s transformative magic.
Selected by the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists & Writers Program, Simonson has taken two expeditions with government-funded research groups to Antarctica. Drawn to the deep sea by all its various creatures (the yeti crab is her “favorite deep sea muse), Simonson’s role as a painter allows her to communicate an array of non-technical information regarding the Antarctic waters and its exotic bio-system.
“I see myself in relation to this history of natural illustration–Audubon, Durer, and other artists who documented new discoveries with their art,” says Simonson. “I still get to expose my audiences to cutting edge research, but I am not wedded to portraying the exact morphologies of my subjects. I aim to engage my viewers on an aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual level.”
Providing viewers with the experience from deep oceanic views, Simonson layers her canvas with Renaissance proficiency. She describes her paintings as containing “dozens of very thin layers – small amounts of pigment suspended in lots of translucent medium.” This creates a more luminous quality. “Then to really make the paintings glow,” explains Simonson, “I re-trace the entire painting with fluorescent paint that is barely visible in white light but glows in black light. The work can be displayed in just white light, just black light, or a combination of the two.”
“Antarctic life is shaped by these extraordinary environmental conditions, which are in turn shaped by human populations, however far away we might be.”
One painting “Pteropods Under Ice”, is of two mating sea angels (aka, sea butterflies), an organism she frequently observed and which is featured prominently in her paintings.
“Scientists in Antarctica are studying them because they are sensitive to climate change,” says Simonson. “The ocean, at even greater rates in colder waters, absorbs increased CO2 in the atmosphere of the Antarctic Ocean and raises the acidity of the ocean. This inhibits pteropods from properly calcifying their shells.”
The Midnight Sun series also includes fantastic visual explorations of glaciers from an underwater perspective, an examination if you will, of the very environment in which these delicate organisms live.
“The idea is to imbue that dynamism into both the organisms and land formations in my paintings,” says Simonson. “In this way, I aim to highlight the connection between the two. It’s not just about these things existing in isolation. Antarctic life is shaped by these extraordinary environmental conditions, which are in turn shaped by human populations, however far away we might be.”