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James Lai is a contemporary landscape painter based in Sydney, Australia. He sees the the landscape as a theatrical play, with its range of elemental characters and the dynamism of movement, drama and mood.


Working in a figurative abstract style, the landscapes are a reflection of contemporary society, about inclusion and diversity within communities. Natural elements in unnatural colours and forms represent people living on the fringes of society, the marginalised and the different.

His works are about the pressing case for climate change action. The bold palette and texture exaggerate the natural elements of the landscapes and uses juxtaposition with global land degradation to emphasise the urgent need for climate action against deterioration of our natural ecosystems.

The current works play with the viewer’s natural understanding of perspective and depth so that they at once feel intimate and peripheral to the constructed landscapes.

‘My works are about contemporary society seen through the theatrical. They are also about the social causes of inclusion, diversity and climate action.’


Finalist - Calleen Art Award (2022)

Finalist - Lethbridge 20000 Art Award (2022)

Finalist - Northern Beaches Environment Art and Design Prize (2021)

Finalist - Lethbridge 20000 Art Award (2021)

Finalist - SBS Portrait Prize (2021)

Finalist - Paddington Art Prize (2020)

Finalist - Gosford Art Prize (2020)

Finalist - Greenway Art Prize (2020)

Finalist - Little Things Art Prize (2020)

Finalist - SBS Landscape Prize (2020)

Finalist - Lethbridge 20000 Small Scale Art Award (2020)

Finalist - The Alice Prize (2020)

Finalist - Paddington Art Prize (2019)

Finalist - Hornsby Art Prize (2019)

Finalist - Blacktown City Art Prize (2019)

Finalist - Hawkesbury Art Prize (2019)

Group exhibition (Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney) 2020

Group exhibition (Michael Reid Gallery, Berlin) 2020

James is represented by the following galleries:

Day Gallery (Blackheath, New South Wales)

Uralla Gallery (Uralla, New South Wales)

Lauriston Press Gallery (Kyneton, Victoria)

Satch and Co Gallery (Holbrook, New South Wales)

The Toowoomba Gallery (Toowoomba, Queensland)

His works are held in private collections in Australia, Europe, US and Southeast Asia.

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