The Design Files - Lilli Waters

TDF - Lilli Waters' underwater Coral Lands

by Sally Tabart

An exhibition of ethereal works from Melbourne-based photographer Lilli Waters exploring underwater lands.

Underwater landscapes and their inhabiting creatures have long been a source of mysticism and wonderment. Disney’s The Little Mermaid invited us to explore the treasures of a mermaid’s world, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet is one of the most widely-loved documentary series of all time, and the idea of the mythical underwater city, Atlantis, has fascinated human’s since Plato’s Socratic dialogues.

Lilli Waters’ latest exhibition, Coral Lands, explores the strange beauty in deep ocean realms and the fragility of marine life. Coral, live rock and flowers combined with bright colours and night sky backgrounds have been used to create Lilli’s own underwater wonderlands. Elements of lunar influence are also felt through the presence of stars and moons in Lilli’s works, in part symbolising the cyclic, debilitating mood disorder she experiences as a sufferer of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Combining these elements with bright colours and night sky backdrops, Lilli has created extraordinary, otherworldly landscapes. The themes in Coral Lands are an extension of her 2017 exhibition, Plastic Fishand continues to draw attention to the devastating impact humans have on ocean life.

Coral Lands
Lilli Waters
June 20th-July 1st

Saint Cloche
37 Macdonald Street
Paddington, New South Wales

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Hunter & Folk - Lilli Waters

Art Talk // Lilli Waters

by Hande Renshaw

Melbourne-based award winning photographic artist and filmmaker Lilli Waters' photographs can easily be mistaken for paintings. Lilli's love for the Renaissance era and her muse Bill Henson, is evident in her photography, which captures layers of colour, shadow and beautiful depth. We sat down with Lilli to find out about her photographic journey and why nature's elusive beauty is such a major inspiration in her work.

Hi Lilli, tell us about when your love for photography was first sparked? Funnily enough, when I walked out of a really bad job in 2011 and couldn't find any work for six months, I took advantage of the spare hours I had on my hands and photographed my first series, Intrinsic Storms. I tied my old medium format film camera to a piece of timber, placed it over the top of a mezzanine in an old factory I was living in at the time, threaded some wire through some tubing to make an extended cable release, lay down on the concrete floor and layered the film scans with images I'd taken of stormy skies together in Photoshop. It was first time I had really allowed myself to play creatively with photo-making since studying photography nine years earlier. 

Do you have a muse? Music has always been my main muse for creating. I was a musician for fourteen years, but I don't play anymore. I honestly can't picture my world without it, and am always listening to a specific artist throughout the process of creating a body of work. This helps to guide me and can really influence the mood of the work.

I've also greatly admired the work of photographer Bill Henson. The mysterious and powerful themes he portrays around youth and nature have always drawn me in, and his use of blacks, dark colours and shadowing remind me of some romantic but unsettling paintings from the Renaissance, which I so love. 

Your photos are so wonderfully moody and evocative, how do you achieve this unique quality? Oh thank you, that's very kind of you to say! My aim is to recreate a fantastical scene inside the little frame of my camera. I often wait until the last flicker of dying light and then work quickly, as it doesn't seem to want to play for too long, leaving me a window of ten minutes or so until it's too dark for my camera to focus. It's often a lot of impatiently waiting for a mad rush. I’m definitely less of a technician and more someone who is driven by a spontaneous stream of light or a gust of wind, which tells me a storm is coming.

Tell us about your creative process - do you work intuitively or is it planned? The creative process for me comes in stages; ideas that are mulled over a glass of wine, listening to a favourite album, finding a time and a place, and the rest seems to sort itself out. My work is sometimes planned but I also love to allow things to happen naturally. I feel like you can plan as much as you like, but in the end, the images will most likely never come out the way you had imagined in your head. Manipulation of the original image is a huge part of my process. Sometimes I pick elements from a series of images, layering them to create the final work, and, much like I imagine a painter might feel, at times it's hard to know when it's finished. 

What are you most passionate about? Nature. I was born on a commune in Wytaliba in NSW - there was no electricity, everyone grew their own produce on the land and the river was where people washed and swam. I now live in the city, but still constantly yearn to be out in the bush and close to the water. I can’t seem to get enough of nature’s elusive beauty and I feel most at home in her arms.

What are you loving at the moment? My pottery classes, the book The Body Keeps the Score - my current bible, making homemade kombucha, spring flowers on every corner in my neighbourhood and delving into old R.E.M albums.

What’s in store for you for the rest of this year? I'm very excited to be filmed for an episode of Art Bites on the ABC in November. I am also in the early stages of preparing for my next solo exhibition happening next year at Saint Cloche Gallery in Sydney. The plan at this stage is to create a body of work that follows on from my most recent Plastic Fish underwater series.

The Design Files

TDF - Lilli Waters & Jacob Cole

by Lucy Feagins

Today we visit the home of photographic artist Lilli Waters and her husband Jake Cole, a musician, in Pascoe Vale in Melbourne’s North.

The house-proud couple have been living in their much loved two bedroom art deco house for around 18 months. Together, they’ve created a warm, eclectic, multi-layered home which speaks to their many passions – art and photography, music, food, friends and pets!

The Pascoe Vale home of photographic artist Lilli Waters and her husband Jake Cole, a musician, is full of character and creative energy.  Here, amongst a jungle of luscious indoor plants and a seriously impressive collection of op-shop treasure, Lilli’s haunting photographic artworks adorn the walls, alongside artworks and handcrafted objects by creative family and friends. Lilli also has a home studio here, whilst Jake’s ever-expanding guitar and amp collection slowly commands more floorspace!

‘The deal was when we moved in, that I got the second bedroom as my studio, and poor Jake got the linen cupboard for his giant collection of guitar pedals’ Lilli explains. ‘He loves that cupboard, it’s like his man den, or in his case, man cupboard’.

The pair previously lived in nearby Brunswick West, and were initially a little nervous about venturing into a new suburb. ‘We looked at so many houses in the area, and this one was the only one we loved’ recalls Lilli. ‘I remember after a weekend of house inspections, feeling so depressed at the falling apart shacks we had seen, we sent an email to the real estate on a Sunday basically begging for them to accept us, and they did!’. The pair wasted no time in making their new surroundings feel like home, establishing a veggie garden, and decorating with a varied mix of furniture, textiles and art.

‘You will probably be able to tell that I am quite the collector, and a bit of an op-shop nut’ Lilli confesses. ‘I’ve been collecting old stuff for about 15 years now, which is strange, because my parents were both op-shop home reno addicts and I used to hate op shops when I was a kid, I’d sit in the Kingswood bored out of my brain, but I guess it washed off!’

Lilli and Jake are also big collectors of local artwork, and have amassed a huge collection of paintings and photographs by talented family and friends. Amongst these are artworks by Lilli’s sister Camille Moir Smith of Carpenter’s Daughter, her mother Mali Moir’s botanical paintings, as well as paintings and prints by Bobby Clarke, Sarah Hendy & Lisa Sorgini to name a few. Alongside these much loved pieces are a few restored artworks too, including a sad poppy painting that was torn and left abandoned in a secondhand hand shop, but which Lilli rescued and had restored. ‘It’s as good as new!’ Lilli says! ‘I love finding old things and giving them life again… it reminds me of how something abandoned and broken can always be fixed and loved again.’

Lilli and Jake love coming home to their house, and feel it is a a space which really nurtures both of their creative spirits. ‘I’m very much drawn to the organic feel of this house’ Lilli muses. ‘It has such a warm feeling, and makes you feel safe and at home as soon as you walk in the door’.

‘We are renting, but we love spending time on making our home a beautiful and warm place to come home to, where we can grow things in our garden, create & make music.’

See more here

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