Lily is a Dutch artist, and she is based between Amsterdam and New York. She first came to prominence, I guess, at the beginning of the Nineties when she was living in New York. Initially she ran a small little artist-run gallery space, and then she began making work and exhibiting through the beginning of the Nineties and through the Nineties.
A lot of the works that we are showing here in Tate St Ives seem very happy, they are very engaging, they are very kind of chirpy in some ways. Some of Lily’s work is about some, not exactly darker, but some other aspects of life. So she’s made work about paying the rent, she’s made work about money, economics, falling out with people – you know, her work is very much about everyday life, and about her life. But what we wanted to do here was again, we thought it’s the summer season, we’re on the beach, and so the exhibition is called ‘No Big Deal thing,’ and we tried to bring together a selection of her works that really do look at that aspect of the things that seem really banal and seem really silly or nothingy, or like no big deal, but in actual fact, are the things that we can all relate to, because they are all part of our life. They are about friends, they are about families, they are about having a party, they are about doing some DIY on the house. And so this exhibition is really celebrating that aspect of her work, I think.
Lily always begins making her work with these small drawings that she makes on paper, and we’ve got over 40, nearly 50 I think, of those drawings that have been made over the last 25 years. So there’s a really amazing range of these drawings that she’s been producing. And they are very much like little doodles, or very childlike, naïve-looking drawings, and many of them are designs, in fact almost all of them are designs for these bigger wall paintings, some of which get made, and some of which always stay as drawings. But there’s something really amazing in the way that these very relaxed, childlike drawings using crayon and felt-tip pen, often, get turned into these incredibly precise, and sometimes monumental wall-paintings. And the paintings are made with such care and precision, they are almost the absolute opposites to the drawings. So there’s again something very interesting that happens in that transition.
She has also spoken at length about being a woman in the art world, and about what it means to make work as a woman, and to make the kind of work that she is making as a woman in the art world. And I think she is increasingly being seen as a really important figure in a kind of feminist and post-feminist context, because the way that she uses decoration and pattern, and the way that she uses domestic furniture, you know, sofas and little children’s chairs, and tables – all of these things are seen as the antithesis of serious art. They all belong to the world of decoration, interior décor, design, or the home – domestic space. And so I think there’s something really extraordinarily provocative and strong about the way that she brings those things into the gallery.
Lily did an interview recently with John Walters, the American film-maker and artist, and he is also a big fan of Lily’s work and a collector of her work. And again, John was thinking about some of these other languages that Lily sort of appropriates in some way, and he asked her the question – he said, ‘Are you a minimalist intellectual?’ And Lily gave this great response – she said, ‘No, I’m not a minimalist intellectual, I’m a feminist conceptual pop artist!’ And I just think in a way, that absolutely sums up her work for me.