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VOGUE - Lilli Waters

VOGUE // Meet the female artist who will make you think twice about your impact on the ocean

by Francesca Wallis

Lilli Waters’ ethereal photographs bridge the gap between what we see and what we do. 
As her name suggests, artist Lilli Waters has an affinity with the ocean. Creating a series of otherworldly, surreal photographs for her body of work, titled Coral Lands, Waters has managed to artfully combine the fragility of the ocean with the colour and vibrancy of its inhabitants. Asking her audience to reassess their impact on coral, Waters’s work goes beyond the traditional and transcends into something wonderfully sublime and futuristic — all the while using natural, tactile pieces to craft her sets. We spoke with Waters ahead of the opening of Coral Lands at Saint Cloche in Sydney, to discuss all things practice, art and yes, Fifty Shades.

On her exhibition at Saint Cloche?
Coral Lands is an underwater photography series, a collection of nine works that were all photographed using large water tanks. They feature coral alongside florals, bright colours and night sky backdrops, creating familiar yet dream like vignettes. My intention with this body of work was to try to create otherworldly landscapes visualising strange underwater fantasy worlds. It involved months of planning and was basically one big experiment.

On her practice and inspiration
My practice is in fine art photography, and my work has largely focused on portraits – mostly of women – and more recently still life. Mother nature, art and music have always been my main muses for creating. I was a musician for fourteen years, but I don't play anymore.  

On how she hopes her audience see her work
I hope that the works resonate with people in a way that they can immerse themselves for a moment in these intriguing underwater worlds. It is also my hope that this series draws the viewer into the strange beauty and acute fragility of coral and that it highlights the devastating impact of climate change on our oceans and the precious life within it.

On the most unexpected places her work has been shown
Two of my photographs are featured in Christian Grey’s apartment in Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed: one in his bedroom and another in his dining room. It was pretty surreal seeing my work in such huge films. The limited edition prints almost sold out after their release, and the author of the books ordered a huge print for her mansion in LA, which is still something I pinch myself over!

On the artists she's inspired by
I’m actually inspired more by painters rather than other photographers. Three contemporary female artists whose work I love and really resonate with are Heidi Yardley, Elizabeth Barnett, and my absolute favourite artist at the moment, Del Kathryn Barton. There’s something dark and sexy about Yardley’s work — the way she depicts fractured female forms which are mesmerising, melancholy, familiar and strange all at the same time. Barnett’s colourful still lifes are comforting and so full of nostalgic joy; they make you want to live in her paintings, like a coming home to a familiar armchair and a pot of tea. Barton’s work is unashamedly feminine. Her figurative imagery is so vibrant and colourful. She has this extraordinary ability to create dream-like kaleidoscopic worlds in a really raw and honest way.

Coral Lands is open until July 1, 2018 at Saint Cloche in Sydney.

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