The abstract artist captures the beauty of local landscapes

By Bridgette M Redman
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer

Julika Lackner has been fascinated by the Los Angeles night sky since the beginning of the pandemic.

The lockdown shifted the longtime landscape artist’s focus, prompting her to create Evening Mile: The Paintings of Julika Lackner, which is on display at Glendale’s Forest Lawn Museum from Saturday 29 January to Sunday 1 May .

“Evening Mile,” an in-person show, features large-scale paintings that have a profound effect on visitors.

“This is the first time the series will be screened in real life,” said the Berlin-born artist, who now resides in Eagle Rock.

“I’ve noticed that the images can look quite repetitive – they’re all landscapes, all at dusk, all with lines in the sky. What it has become for me are the differences in every picture and in every sunset. So it’s really exciting to have them side by side in a room so that people can experience them that way. To show them in real life versus photos of them, these are even better in person. This is usually the case with paintings.”

The series features views of her backyard in Eagle Rock and Southern California in general. Even now she said the series is not complete. She plans to expand her location radius, but isn’t far off yet.

site-specific works

She created three site-specific works for the Forest Lawn exhibition.

She went to the museum when it was closed and photographed the west, north, and south views. The south view overlooks downtown LA, the north view overlooks Glendale, and the west view overlooks the San Fernando Valley.

“It’s really great to have a show where people can go outside and see that view,” Lackner said. “You can kind of see how I take that view in my paintings. That was a really exciting part of the show for me.”

The museum is located in a cemetery and offers free parking and public admission.

The 17-part exhibition has evolved since its debut in 2021. Lackner said the paintings are larger, particularly that of downtown LA, which is the centerpiece of the exhibit.

“My views were very limited at first,” Lackner said. “So much about the pandemic in the beginning brought it very close and intimate. Luckily, as the world started to open up, I was able to go a little further—all still Southern California, but there are some from Santa Barbara Bay and elsewhere.”

moving across the pond

After moving to Los Angeles from Berlin, Lackner earned an MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

In Berlin she created representational paintings of subway stations. That changed when she arrived in Pasadena.

“I switched to painting Los Angeles nights, but it was still pretty representative,” she said.

“It was all about color and the flying balls in the fog and this big dome of the LA sky that’s always lit.”

Then she painted more abstractly and delved into atmosphere and space. She launched a series of linear landscapes that featured California, Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Yosemite—what she called all the heavyweights of dramatic landscapes. Then 2020 came and the lockdowns brought them down.

“For the first time ever, I thought I should paint my view,” Lackner said. “We have a wraparound deck and I never seriously considered painting (my view).”

She would watch the sunset every evening and take photos that she could refer to while painting. She fused her grad school style with her linear landscapes, bringing in colored lines that represented the light reflecting off the city in the sky.

The Forest Lawn exhibition includes some of her older paintings, which provide the context for this nightly series.

There is a representational landscape, a complete abstraction with only lines, and then another which is a landscape in which the lines across the sky appeared first.

From the beginning

She began the series of twilight paintings in April 2020. As the pandemic started she was working on her linear landscapes and commissions. Then she saw a photo she took with her phone of the night sky from her deck and was inspired to paint it.

“I was trying to capture the twinkling lights in the hills,” Lackner said. “It had this very warm feeling. I wanted the twinkling lights, but I didn’t want the dark, dark night skies. This time right after sunset has this really nice way of bringing the city lights up into the sky. It’s just a beautiful time of day.”

She used to avoid sunset and sunrise. The change was warmly welcomed.

“It makes a difference,” she said. “I had an immediate positive reaction and that was very encouraging.”

She looks forward to exhibiting at Forest Lawn, an institution that hosts permanent and traveling exhibitions. She was offered a seat in the front room, which ironically has a great view.

The series has been her most popular, in part because she feels Los Angeles doesn’t always get the love it deserves when it comes to art and aesthetics.

“It’s really a beautiful place,” Lackner said. “The people who live here love it and are happy that it’s being treated with such respect but also highlighting the beauty of the place, especially that northeast area with the hills and all.”

She is also happy to give back to Eagle Rock, Glendale and Pasadena because they mean a lot to her.

“The past two years have been really, really difficult for most people in a lot of ways,” Lackner said. “I think the best thing about the pandemic is that it has brought people closer and made them more understanding and gentle, one would hope so anyway. This work, which is more uplifting, means I want to give back to the community and value my community.”

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