Lilly Lulay

An optical illusion

Trompe-l'œil is a term used in art history for illusionistic images or paintings that appear to be three-dimensional. Viewers are tricked into perceiving artistic content as being real, putting their sense of reality to the test. The term originated in ancient times and is primarily used in painting, but also finds its place in photography.

"A sort of painting using the medium of photography" is how artist Lilly Lulay describes her work. Her photo collages question aspects of reality and our perception of images, which is often understood as being set in stone. What do we see, or think that we see, when we look at a photograph? A photo is usually first and foremost a depiction of reality, a snapshot of something that has been. In our private lives, we take pictures of various situations, landscapes, people, objects – the range of topics is vast. It is private photos such as these, found at flea markets or online, that inspire Lulay's photographic series. She takes the material she finds and arranges it to create new works, sometimes adding some of her own pictures. In doing so, she manages to produce images that attest to a keen sense of composition, space and the creative possibilities of photography as a medium. Her "Mindscapes" are cut-outs of existing photos, positioned to form collages of different colors, shapes and objects, sometimes abstract, at other times specific. The result is not only a new two-dimensional object, but also a new picture. At the same time, she preserves the materiality of the components she adds, combining them to form new, non-existent landscapes and places. Lilly Lulay's collages are memory spaces – the individual elements seem familiar, but assembled in this way, they appear foreign.

Lilly Lulay frequently deals with her environment through photography, exploring the world and embracing it with the help of her collages. The idea behind her series "Coloured Papers" is a good example: It is based on the notion of an imaginary pin board filled with brightly colored notes with different adverts. When the text is removed, we are left with paper that can be made of various materials, have creases or rough edges. The finished picture is detached from the original motives and suddenly becomes tactile. The layers of the individual components, the edges and textures, are all visible. What makes these images remarkable is that the two-dimensional photograph retains its haptic character and becomes an object in itself. They are so illusory that one has the impression that if one blew them, the individual, apparently overlapping, sheets of paper would fly up. In this way, the artist creates a constructed version of reality that forces us to ask what is real and what is not.

Biographical information


born in Frankfurt am Main

2005 – 2014

studies at HfG Offenbach (University of Art and Design) with Martin Liebscher. Wolfgang Luy and Marc Ries


awarded the Deutsche Börse HfG Fotoförderpreis

lives in Frankfurt am Main