South African Contemporary Fine Artist
Lillian Gray is a renowned South African fine artist. She is best known for her large, bold and expressive portraits. Her colourful work attracts the attention of connoisseurs and novices alike and leaves an indelible impression on those who appreciate beauty.
Lillian is, however, more than a South African fine artist. She is a global citizen who is dedicated to protecting the wellbeing of our beautiful planet. Lillian dynamically practices her belief that we are one and together we must work towards a better future for all. With a keen interest in anthropology, the scientific study of humans, human behaviour and societies in the past and present, she loves to devote her time and attention to human and societal behaviour. Her observations and conclusions are expressed in splendid works of art that often become the source of conversations that delve deeper into what it means to be a human being. Lillian adores cultures and ethnicities, yet she regularly transcends race and sometimes gender by painting her humans in blue, green or purple. She revels in these ambiguities and stands back and enjoys the questions her work provokes with not a single word spoken.
When you paint a face in any or all the colours of the rainbow, the work transcends race. It’s no longer a white person or a black person on the canvas; it’s a human being; a global citizen. I have also witnessed many of clients viewing my artwork and referring to the image as male when the next person is experiencing it as female.
I love that my fine art has the quality of being open to more than one interpretation. This facet exposes our biases and often leads to deeper conversations about what it means to be human.
Recognition from the worldwide fine art world
Her global citizenship extends further than her belief system. The global art world has noticed and recognised her art and her message. And even though creative expression and the desire to develop beauty inspire fine artists to paint, draw or sculpt, recognition from your peers and art experts are a powerful muse. Prestigious art authorities have acknowledged Lillian’s work and this feather in her cap has given her the impetus develop her exceptional talent even further.
In 2019, Lillian participated in three international exhibitions – one in London and two in New York. She has been invited to exhibit in Chicago in 2020.
A fine artist who is a lifelong learner
Lillian taps into her own inner wisdom to create beauty, but also believes in lifelong learning to stay relevant and thrive. Her process as a fine artist remains adaptive, inventive and engaging. She continues to learn and develop her artistic technique. Currently, she is experimenting with street art culture, adding spray paint and “the language of graffiti” to her oil paintings.
Her drawing inspiration comes from people’s stories and specifically narratives about empowerment, hope, conquering fear and overcoming trials and tribulations, which are all recurring themes in her works of fine art.
I find that recurrent themes in my work are hope, empowerment, conquering fear and overcoming trials and tribulations.
The fine artist in her element
As a human being and fine artist, Lillian is energetic with a strong life force and unwavering confidence in her creative abilities. These qualities are evident in her process, which is fast, physical and intense. Her raw emotions are made manifest on canvas and tell her story in abstract brush strokes and textures that add another layer of meaning. In other words, her fine art is more than meets the eye. It invites the viewer to look deeper, to find meaning in the portrait or landscape and to make it their own. Lillian’s ultimate mission is to make you FEEL – whether it is joy, sadness, inspired or angry – as humans often avoid our feelings for fear of seeming vulnerable or in fact just human.
There is method behind her art, especially the portraits, as they often seem unfinished or incomplete; like there is more to be done or told or expressed. But this is Lillian’s intention. It is deliberate because she believes that we are all somewhat uncompleted.
We often strive for perfection, for knowing and being it all. Yet, I believe that we are here to learn, grow and evolve. We can never be complete. We are literally in a work in progress. Our edges get blurred with unfinished business or our inability to let go of the past, and some lines are fragmented by experiences or people or events. But we are beautiful even in our brokenness.
Because of this energy and emotion, she is often asked to do live painting for crowds. She is also a popular speaker and conveys her message through guest lecturing and public events.
Using only the finest products
Lillian uses only the finest quality paints and pigments, such as Winton and Winsor & Newton which she applies to high-quality, natural canvasses of Belgian linen or cotton. She also loves using unconventional tools to create interesting marks on the artwork and to scrape layers off the canvas.
Lillian Gray as a child
Lillian was raised in Jacobsbaai, a small town on the West Coast in the Western Cape, South Africa. The outdoors and nature were her best friends and her surroundings played a central role in her upbringing. The lack of electricity and the remote setting of the town forced her and her siblings to seek alternative means of entertainment and activities. It cultivated an active imagination and love for creativity. She could draw before she could write, and always had her sketchbook handy.
At the age of 9, Lillian started painting on glass and selling her art at local curio stores. When she was 10 years old, she participated in an Eisteddfod and sold her first artworks to one of the judges. Not only was Lillian ready an artist in the making, but also a keen entrepreneur.
Lillian had her first solo exhibition as the ATKV’s Regional Artist of the Year for the West Coast at 19. Her first encounter with oil paint happened when she was 24 and this soon became her preferred medium on her journey to find her own artistic identity.
Graphic designer turned South African fine artist
She earned a living as a highly successful commercial graphic designer for ten years and started and managed her own design agency for six years.
Following the commercial success of her business, she felt a massive craving to return to painting and the basic, tactile creative process. This hunger to create culminated in a personal breakthrough, a triumphant outpouring of inspiration on canvas. A bright feast for the eye in bold yellows, oranges, pinks and purples collided and resulted in haunting faces that have now become Lillian’s signature style.
Today Lillian is a successful entrepreneur and fine arts teacher. She lives and works in Fairland, Johannesburg, South Africa and is a loving wife and mother of two.
Teaching children to appreciate fine art and beauty
Her role as mom also made her conscious of the importance of working towards a better future for all humans and a planet that thrives. With this is mind, Lillian founded and art school and now employees five teachers who love teaching children of all ages the finer techniques of making art using various mediums, including oil, watercolour, acrylic, drawing, charcoal, pastel and clay. During art class, stories of the ancient master painters are shared to get kids interested in the history of art.
Teaching adults to make fine art
Lillian’s art school also hosts classes for adults from beginners to advance. There’s no pressure! The classes are unique in that you can go through the curriculum at your own speed with experienced and thoughtful teachers to gently guide you.
- 2019 – Mosiac Expo Gallery – Johannesburg – South Africa
- 2019 – Julie Miller Gallery – Mall of Africa – Johannesburg – South Africa
- 2019 – White Space – New York – USA
- 2019 – Agora Gallery – Chelsea – New York – USA
- 2019 – Parallax Art Fair – South Kensington – London – UK
- 2018 – hung (salon-style) In Toto Gallery – Sandton – Johannesburg – South Africa
- 2017 – George Bizo’s 90th birthday Gala Dinner – Johannesburg – South Africa
- 2017 – The Arethe Daflos Bizos Annual Art Exhibition entitled “I am Free” – Johannesburg – South Africa
- 2012 – Pink Geranium – Stellenbosch – South Africa
- 2011 – Aardklop Arts Festival – Snow Flake Millhouse Gallery – Potchefstroom – South Africa
- 2010 – Lanzerac Estate – Stellenbosch – South Africa
- 2006 – ATKV Fees – Guest Artist – “Die Weskus en sy mense” – Piketberg – South Africa
- 2019 – 18 & 19 July – Conference – Chief Data and Analytics African Conference – Art can be used for rhino conservation – 8 minutes
- 2019 – 27 June – Lecture – Workshop: Are you prepared for the future? Skills, Creativity, critical thinking and complex problem solving – Lillian Gray lectures on the 4 Rooms of Creativity – how to have truly original ideas – 1 Hour 30 minutes
- 2014 – Pecha Kucha – Cape Town – Unblocking Creativity – 20 Slides 20 seconds each – (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total)
- 2013 – Lecture – Guest Lecturer at Media Village Video Production School – Art as communication and your responsibility – Focused on Leni Riefenstahl and Oliviero Toscani – 3 Hours
- 2019 – Aug Issue – Magazine – Garden & Home – Life in colour
- 2019 – 17 July – Newspaper – Nothcliff Melville Times – Lillian Gray’s Art Passion
- 2019 – July Issue – Magazine – InFlight Magazine – An artist of colourful opinions – 3 Page Article
- 2019 – 3 July – Magazine – Joburg Style – Contemporary Artist, Lillian Gray, Globally Recognised for Her Universal Appeal – 1 Page Article
- 2019 – 29 May – Video Interview – Geek Kulcha – on the 4th Industrial Revolution and the importance of Creativity
- 2019 – May Issue – Magazine – Mango Juice Magazine – Art without barriers – 4 Page Article
- 2019 – 11 May – Newspaper – Saturday Star – How to turn your home into a truly creative masterpiece – 1 Page Article
- 2019 – 17 March – Newspaper – Sunday Times – Going Against the Grain – 1 Page Article
- 2019 – 14 Feb – TV Show – One Day Leader – Live painting of judges
- 2018 – 17 June – Newspaper – Sunday Times – Dad of many colours
- 2018 – 7 Sep – TV Show – The Epic Hangout – Teaching art to kids lesson based on Andy Warhol – 30mins
- 2018 – 21 March – TV Show – Woman in SA – Raise a cup to Irma Stern – 30 minutes
- 2019 – PWC Pricewaterhouse Coopers
- 2019 – ABSA Bank LTD
- 2019 – CFO of Momentum Healthcare Ltd
- 2019 – Board member of Pricewaterhouse Coopers LTD
- 2018 – CEO Home Finance, First National Bank
5 Key Business Books to Lillian’s Success
- Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
- Be so good they can’t ignore you – by Cal Newport
- The E-myth Revisted – Micheal E. Gerber
- The Power of Moments – Chip & Dan Heath
- Whatever you think, think the opposite – Paul Arden