The female nude has often been a motif in the art world- when draftsmen primarily stood at the other side of the easel as spectator, to the self composed portrait of the modern women artists of instagram. Reclaiming the raw beauty of women from her London based studio is artist Alexa Coe. With an instagram account amassing a following of over 23 thousand people, and a sense of mystery about Alexa herself created by seen mostly in glimpses, it was time to learn more about the creative illustrator.
Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins
ÅJ: The majority of your work centers around the female nude. What is it about the female form that you find makes such charming pieces of art?
It is perhaps not the physical form itself but the other levels of meaning which surround the female form. The human body is the most power tool we have to communicate with, who we use it and how we view it has a huge effect on our own experience of ourselves. So when we read images of other bodies it speaks to us closer than any other subject within art. The naked even more so, as it invites us to sit with the discomfort of looking deeper within.
ÅJ: With an illustrative style and a flair for minimalism, how do you find this method affects your creative processes? With only a few lines making up a final piece, do you find that painting or drawing is a slow process?
There is a Georgia O’Keeffe quote which states:
“I began with charcoal and paper and decided not to use any color until it was impossible to do what I wanted to do in black and white.”
My work is stripping what has become complicated back to its rawest form. In the same way in which I have explored the basic and almost primal form of drawing, I have also tries to infuse that with the exploration of my own sense of feminine identity. To start from the beginning. Drawing is the start to all paintings, so I wanted to start here before I began to even consider how I could translate the same sensuality of line through painting. Much like an author starting with a short story before beginning their first novel.
ÅJ: Many of your photographs that make up your impressively curated social media feed, include a sense of anonymity about you, the artist. Why is this?
I suppose much of what we see on instagram is humanity trying to not be forgotten. Though I think much better is to a trace upon this world, via your own method of communication rather than an image that will fade at one stage. It’s important that although there is a side to all artists which is self indulgent, that one does not let that take over from the conversation you are trying to have with your audience.
ÅJ: Do you find that the woman in your pieces is a reflection of yourself?
Occasionally. It is not conscious though, sometimes perhaps when a personal experience of insecurities emerges then I may look back and discover that there is a little of me within those images.
ÅJ: How do you find that living and working in London affects your practise?
London is busy, fast paced and constantly shifting. It’s also one of the most exciting places to see art and history for free. It’s a place that doesn’t really have a set identity and that may be what I like the best.
ÅJ: Aside from drawing and painting, what else do you like to do with your time?
I practice yoga daily. I like going to the cinema and exhibitions, occasionally reading (when I have time) the normal stuff. All things that educate ourselves daily.
ÅJ: Women of all shapes, races and origins are struggling to be head above a noise of misogyny and patriarchy. In the past have there been any times that you’ve felt this pressure, as a young female creative, and if so, do you have any advice to offer?
I am 5’3” petite and polite, very easy prey. I have had every misogynistic offering shouted out me. I believe the best thing is to educate yourself that it’s not right nor ok, which is often harder than living in ignorance, as it does build barriers of resentment and fear. Though I believe it’s important also to come to terms of peace within yourself and accept that the ways some people think and act is not part of your own self worth. I suppose I would say that learning that your skills, your words, and gifts are your power, not your looks, is a vital step to finding balance and that those powers are not dictated by your gender.
ÅJ: With a degree in textiles and a masters in fashion communication, you’ve been immersed in the fashion industry through your education. Many are now claiming we’re in the middle of a shift toward a more politically active, inclusive and celebratory industry. Do you think this is taking place, and what would that look like for you?
I think it has far to go. Fashion’s taste for indulgence and opulence will always stand in the way of its own image. Though I think fashion will always struggle to be accepted as an art form, often associated with feminine skills and vanity, even when it seeks to address a new politic status it will be held back by this. So the shift must also come from how it is received, for that it may need to find a middle ground.
ÅJ: Where is your favourite place to sit and draw?
Sitting on the beach or by a pool. Despite the fact that people have slipped off most of their clothes, they have never been so relaxed. When you draw from life you notice that their bodies are positioned in a more childlike manner , without a style and natural. A relaxed body is always the most interesting, as it’s very human.
ÅJ: Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us! Lastly, where are you hoping to be in ten years?
Me still drawing and people still liking it.
Alexa created four exclusive pieces inspired by one of Å Journal’s conceptual beginnings, ‘dialogue’. After speaking with her and understanding the pieces more clearly, the ambiguity in her work becomes part of it’s inescapable value and beauty- the line work holds a different significance for each person looking. And this is where is is unique, and full of conversation.
"I am fascinated by the way in which the body expresses emotions without us needing to use linguistics. Especially within a social built around digital communication there is a mystery and a sensuality about how we interact by touch with others.
For this I chose the way in which we express love within the intimacy of a couple, which is still ultimately one of the most powerful ways in which to feel human. It felt only natural to express this with simply a charcoal stick and except the minor smudges when represented human interaction.”