July 27 – August 30, 2018

Roll Up Project is pleased to present paintings by Lily Simonson.

Lily Simonson’s work explores life in extreme underwater environments. Diving under the Antarctic ice with scientific research teams, she surveys marine landscapes and animals, taking videos and identifying samples to bring ashore. Her paintings evoke the intimacy of biological research, and also the vast and surreal landscapes in which the research is conducted. Simonson’s work echoes a long history of scientific expeditions, in which artists and scientists work collaboratively to bring new discoveries to the public.

Simonson brings a new perspective on this genre by incorporating UV-reactive pigments that reveal additional details when viewed under blacklights. During dives, light is filtered through thick ocean ice, water, plant life, and more, distorting natural colors and creating deep areas of shadow. Within the dark underwater world, bioluminescent jellies, fish, and sea cucumbers bring dazzling displays.

Simonson’s Loose Seal Under Sea Ice fills the main Roll Up door, introducing us to the diver’s perspective. The bottom two thirds of the canvas are inky black, impenetrable and foreboding. But up at the top of the canvas, something stirs – a seal is visible amidst a craggy crust of ice overhead. Blues, yellows, and greens converge into a plane reminiscent of a stormy sky. Simonson’s attention to the quality of light allows the viewer to inhabit her world and imagine nature from her viewpoint.

In the Third Street windows, two paintings depict life at the bottom of the ocean. On the left, a hydrothermal smoker billows up steamy emissions. On the right, three tube worms called Lamellibrachia curl around the canvas in an asymmetrical composition. In a 2016 L.A. Times article, Simonson states, “I’m drawn to life in extreme environments like the vents…places where it seems counterintuitive for life to thrive.” Volcanic vents can emit water up to 867 degrees Farenheit, and the flora and fauna living nearby have adapted to survive.

Simonson’s paintings bring contemporary scientific research to life, enlivening the topics of conservation, science funding, and the importance of working in collaborative environments. To learn more about her work, watch the videos below and visit her website.


Loose Seal Under Sea Ice, 2016
oil and acrylic on canvas
72 x 96 inches
photo courtesy of artist


Hydrothermal Smoker, East Pacific Rise, 2017
oil and acrylic on canvas
40 x 30 inches
photo courtesy of artist
Lamellibrachia, 2017
oil and acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
photo courtesy of artist