Australian artist Grace Lila paints self-portraits and domestic scenes that explore themes of family, childhood, and body image. Mirroring the complexity of her emotions, she applies layer after layer of acrylic paint and charcoal, using paintbrushes, but also different objects like wooden sticks and bits of wire. As an adopted child, Lila has always felt the pangs of separation from her biological family, even more so after the suicide of her adoptive father. When she later reunited with her birth parents, she learned she had two sisters and four brothers and came from a long line of Dutch painters. “Genetics come through,” she says jokingly.
Lila seeks to rebuild the umbilical cord that was so abruptly severed in her infancy. As such, she constructs the imaginary life she has never had: her mother’s caresses, an afternoon by the pool with her siblings, a girl flying a kite by the beach. Yet there is always a shadow over the idyll. The children have dark rings around their deep-seated eyes, signifying that the scars of the past cannot be entirely effaced. Lila has survived domestic violence, mental illness, suicide attempts, and even a house fire. Like a phoenix, she has risen from the ashes of her battered self, becoming a voice of inspiration for all those who suffer, a mission she also undertakes in her work as a counselor. “Facing the sun is a choice a sunflower makes every day,” she muses.