In 2014, when Lillian lost her beloved husband the writer/philosopher Robin Amis in June of that year, she felt that her painting days were over, and that after over 60 years of art which began in the ‘50’s while she was living in New York, had come to an end. She was to be proven wrong.
One reason for her difficulty in returning to her art was that she had recently undergone a shoulder replacement operation, which cut across her ability to make the fine movement with the brush required to make a picture.
Later in 2014, she took part in the annual West Bristol Arts Trail, where all the local artists open their studios to the public, and (hopefully) sell enough work to keep them going in the later months. During that show, she exhibited a few little studies done on her iPad of a mother and child in an interior. Judging from the popularity of these two images, she decided that if she wanted to return to her art, then this might be a way.
The Library series began from these studies, but soon developed into other images. Because of her difficulty with holding the brush, she began to devise other ways of making a picture – in this case, she decided to use the recurring motif of the black and white library shelves as a leitmotif, and create all the images with this as a background. For one thing, she could create them by masking out the shelves, and then laying on paint with a palette knife, then scratching in the books with scraffiti technique. None of this unduly taxed her painting arm.
The next challenge was to create the figures which formed the central motif. For this, she used her favourite model, Mel, a lovely Turkish-Dutch girl, who was her part time carer. She photographed Mel with patterned material draped over her (one a black and white patterned African throw which she bought in Oxfam for £2). She began to assemble collages from these photographs, and in some cases she used prints of the actual photographs and pasted them onto the board. Once affixed, she could develop the patterns by painting in between the spaces (a kind of ‘painting by numbers’). For some strange reason her hand could perform ‘filling in’ movements, but little more.
The work soon evolved into a full-fledged series, added to by a trip taken by Mel to Edinburgh, when she came back with a tartan shawl. This immediately found its way into the collection. As the series developed, there were soon nudes in the library (from an old painting revisited), a ‘Mother of God in the Library’ which used the technique of iconography to achieve the image. One moving image was a photograph she had taken of her late husband while he was asleep. She printed this onto canvas, and then affixed the image onto a ground which included the bookshelves – an appropriate image for Robin, as the library was comprised of his books.
So by its completion the series stood as a fitting memorial to her husband, combining her images with his books. Although she could have sold these several times over in the ensuing years, she held onto them to form a collection, which finally had a showing with the Satori Gallery at the Engineer’s House Bristol in August 2017.