A London based artist with a background in fashion illustration and a degree from Central Saint Martins. Interviewed by New York magazine, Howl, a bespoke illustrator for Miller Harris perfumer, resident artist at The Basic Store and exclusively stocked at Liberty London. Alexa Coe’s petite frame and wild blonde hair camouflage her fierce talent.
I briefly met Alexa at The Basic Store, a pop up run by Marina London, with carefully curated clothing, interiors, shoes, bags and baskets; in a space that’s fit to be a gallery. Alexa’s feminine line drawings compliment and upgrade the space and introduce a new conversation of their own.
I asked Alexa about using Matisse and Picasso for inspiration; the tension between feminine innocence and erotica in her artwork; and the movement of drawing as a performance itself.
HB: Is it annoying when people ask if your work is inspired by Picasso, Matisse or O’Keeffe?
AC: Not at all! I mean others influence us all, but we do our own version. Plus these are some of the greats…
HB: Are the figures in your drawings: friends, models, self-portraits or figments of your imagination?
AC: A mixture I guess, there is a bit of myself, pictures I have seen, or a person. But most of the time these are not characters they are just forms or a shape I have seen in the connection of one line to another. It’s all about simplifying, so I honestly forget where most of the inspiration stems from once I have finished.
HB: Female nudes are the main subject of your art, what makes you keep coming back to draw the female body?
AC: It’s an important part of the female culture, and the whole of culture to be honest. That is not necessarily a good thing, and most of which I am trying to achieve is to find pleasure within the depiction of the form without the connotations of sexualisation or commercialisation.
Forget about what you ‘think’ a body looks like. Instead choose to see lines and curves and shapes
HB: Do you want your drawings to be seen as sexual? I noticed that you used a quote by O’Keeffe with one of your Instagram posts: “When people read erotic symbols into my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs.” but you also hashtag ‘suggestive forms’.
AC: Well they are sexual in some ways, though in others not at all. Sexuality is an essential part of us, which is mostly in western culture repressed but also stylised in other ways for the advertising industry… I would say my work is more about sensuality. That is the art of sensory experience of the body, and that can be sexual or otherwise.
HB: Is there a reason you like drawing with crayons, perhaps minimalism, or the texture?
AC: Well I feel like a big child when I draw, as there is so much pleasure there which we don’t often experience as an adult, so picking up Crayola crayons felt very natural throwback to being a free child.
HB: How do you decide which of your drawings to exhibit and sell, you must draw so many!?
AC: I do make a lot- and I actually usually draw about 10 times that of what is seen. Though I can be selective and also a good critique of myself. I go through so much waste! (which is obviously recycled!)
HB: I presume you’ve spent many hours in life drawing classes. What would you say to someone who has never been to a class? How would you suggest making the most out of the sessions?
AC: If I Put a penny in a jar every time I heard people say the sentence “But I am not very good.” I would be rich! Honestly. Life drawing is about seeing what is really there and if you are stuck in the mindset of negativity then you will never be able to loosen up. Oh and forget about what you ‘think’ a body looks like. Instead, choose to see lines and curves and shapes, and this will make much more cohesive finished results.
HB: There’s a quote from your Instagram that suggests you have a unique sense of space/ your surroundings:
I see patterns within space between one person and the next… of connection between one line and the next. There are also patterns in the space- in between, those gaps and empty spaces. That is where the interesting stuff begins.”
HB: Would you say that you have a sort of synaesthetic visualisation of your spatial awareness, or how would you describe it?
AC: I suppose it’s a natural intuitive part of me that experiences in this way, rather than [consciously] thinking about expressing [patterns and shapes]. I think much of what we do and express is from within and should be an expression of that uniqueness.
HB: Having a look at your Vimeo, the process of drawing seems really important to you- do you feel like you have to be very present in your body whilst you draw? A sort of mediation?
AC: Drawing is an expression of one’s mind and then more especially one’s body. It can be very therapeutic. The films are completely spontaneous drawings and often become super meditative processes simply from allowing them to be. When we let go of an agenda or a goal we experience in a much more exciting way.
HB: With your piece, “The anatomy of Cares”, you describe two types of touch (Alpha and Caress), how has this research affected your artwork?
There are two types of touch in which information is carried from skin to brain. The first is Alpha- A fibres carry fast information; the signals enable you to form a mental image of your body in space. C-touch (caress) is significantly slower and examines texture, shape and vibration. More importantly these develop into our ability to see the emotive quality in touch, sensation.”
AC: Be understanding of touch and therefore the importance of physicality in daily experience and personal growth, then you can begin to understand the modern human condition that both desires and despises the feel of touch of others. Though I believe that much of this is a lack of space given to the experience of our own sensations [of our] bodies. I think if we are truly connected to what we think, and what we do, then we can begin to things with an intention from the soul.
HB: You mentioned using Instagram for inspiration; please may I have a sneaky screenshot of some of your saved collections?
All images courtesy of Alexa Coe.