ARTIST PROFILE: Lila Lewis Irving

Putting into words the emotional expression of an artist is challenging at best. They are visual, expressive thinkers, and explaining their work is the bane of almost every artist's existence.

Lila Lewis Irving is an exception to the rule. Lightening the task with a lofty, harmonious interpretation of her art, Irving sheds insight into her work.

Originally reigning from New York City, it was in 1969 that Canada's now infamous abstract artist made Mississauga her home. Already an established artist, interestingly she painted still-life, scenery and portraits. It would not be until 2000 that Irving discovered her passion, and excelled in the abstract.
“My art had been recognizable subject matter, in mostly watercolours and was selling pretty well in the '80s,” she explains. “But I was bored with landscapes and seascapes ““ they became too easy. I like a challenge and the only one left was abstract expression. After I tried it I never went back.”

Lila Lewis Irving is an instinctive painter. In kindergarten she was thrilled when her teacher told her she was a true artist. A childhood fan of Jackson Pollock, Irving recalls the thrill she felt upon his fame. It would be decades years later that she'd discover akin sensation creating her own abstracts.

Happily residing on the river in Port Credit, it has been her preferred inspirational landscape. “I always have to see something beautiful when looking out a window,” she says. A recipient of numerous art awards, Irving was thrilled to receive the first Art Gallery of Mississauga's (AGM) Artist of Distinction Award in May 2013. Always heartfelt, Irving loves the accolades and the fanfare. She is a people person who is a respected member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour and the Ontario Society of Artists.

The Art Gallery of Mississauga is a great friend to Lila Lewis Irving. Stuart Keeler, director/curator had a fabulous vision and incorporated tai-chi into Irving's latest exhibition. “It was a wonderful idea Stuart had, as in art, tai-chi is like moving mediation.” In 2012 the AGM paid special tribute with a retrospective exhibition of Irving's work ranging from woodcuts created in the 1970s to her recent large abstract canvases. Inspired by this artist's contagious spirit, it was aptly called Con Spirito and highlighted a career spanning 50 years.

Represented by numerous galleries, including Abbozzo Gallery, Westdale Gallery and Leonardo Galleries, Irving has become internationally recognized by her enigmatic boldness in the abstract. In partnership with Abbozzo Gallery, Irving is especially pleased with the 2012 publication of a book featuring selections of her art; “a real big coffee table book we named Appassionata.” 

A woman of passion, flare and drive, Irving and her art have always been propelled by opera music.  “In a chosen life I would be an opera singer. I simply must have opera playing when I paint. It moves me into another world and inspires movement and dance while I work. The combination is like breathing to me.”

The recent works of Lila Lewis Irving have been big and brazen, created with acrylic on paper or canvas using saturated colours to express emotion. At 77 she admittedly has tremendous energy. “I don't know where I get this drive…I am tremendously disciplined.” 

She describes herself as a massive shape abstract artist who paints large non-objective pieces.  “Many people need to find something in the painting…but I don't see an image when I paint. I feel an energy that I express in movement, shapes and colours. The key is to know when to pull back and stop as you can get critical and out of the creative mode.”

Lila Lewis Irving is a force to be reckoned with. Relishing success and her art, painting a few hours each day and teaching non-objective art “makes for a full and as happy a life as you can get,” says Irving. “I've lived a life of total passion and would definitely say I have had a really good kick
of the can.”