Artist Inquisition: Alexia Brehas
Words: @lauren_guymerImages: courtesy of artist
Ahead of her collaborative exhibition 'Rave In Paradise (R.I.P)' opening at Off The Kerb Gallery on September 9, we caught up with Alexia Brehas as part of our ongoing Artist Inquisition series. Alexia is a Melbourne based artist, designer, and writer, whose artistic world is composed entirely of neutrals, with a striking monochromatic palette underpinning her entire vision. Enjoy!
Hello Alexia! Can you please tell us a little bit about your exhibition with Chanelle Nillson, Rave In Paradise, showing at Off The Kerb Gallery this September?
Hello! R.I.P is an exhibition that explores the nature of parallels – darkness and light, yin and yang, heaven and hell, black and white. These parallels depend on the other to exist, so they are of equal importance. Immortality, life, death, and the afterlife are particularly prominent themes in the exhibition, but we have tried to twist these notions into something more light-hearted. Instead of depicting death and mortality in a grim light, we have included depictions of calm waters, constellations and birds throughout the artworks. R.I.P laughs in the face of death, because we know the afterlife is just going to be one big rave.
How did you first meet Chanelle and develop the idea for your exhibition?
We discovered each other on Instagram a few years ago, and I guess we followed each other because we both had similar styles of drawing, even back then. We spoke briefly about collaborating together, but never really got around to it, because Chanelle’s online presence was taking off, and I was busy exhibiting artwork in group shows and building my graphic design career too. Earlier this year I reached out to Chanelle and we were both really keen to have an exhibition together, since so much of our work felt already seamlessly integrated. In terms of developing the idea, I proposed a couple of themes, and narrowed it down until Rave In Paradise was officially born. I’m a very wordy person, and I can talk for hours about symbolism and artistic metaphors, so I’m just lucky Chanelle was on board with the idea!
Is there an artwork in this exhibition that you’re most proud of, or one that has a particularly interesting backstory?
That’s like asking a parent to choose a favourite child. But I probably would be the kind of person to have a favourite child. So I’ll say that I’m most proud of Moonchild for a number of reasons. That, along with Paradise is one of the first in the portrait series where I have used the stippling technique on Arches paper, which creates a much finer and softer looking tone. It’s also the first time I have used silver foil in my work, which is impossible to do justice with in a photo, so it really requires that face-to-face contact in person. Another ‘first’ about this artwork is that I think I’ve finally found my muse. I’ve previously drawn the faces of friends and family, but the subject of this piece is a phenomenal human, both in terms of face structure and personality. So I think it feels the most alive, there’s a lot of personality and intimacy in that piece.
How does living and working in Melbourne influence your work?
I love Melbourne so, so much, it’s my favourite city. I’ve been to San Francisco and London and some big art cities, but there’s something about the culture of Melbourne that just breathes differently. It’s a different vibe. I don’t ever draw publicly, and I don’t draw buildings and things like that in Melbourne, but the people and local artistic history constantly keep me motivated. I recently visited the NGV archives and spent hours reading up about the stolen Picasso. So, it’s not like I went home and drew my own version of the Picasso, or a picture of the NGV or anything - but having that knowledge in my head really inspired me. I love reading up about Vali Myers and Mirka Mora and all these amazing Melbournian women who made art, and I think being exposed to these icons just inspires me to create.
How did you first get involved in art - were you one of those little kids who always loved being creative, or is it something that came later?
Everyone asks me this, and it’s the most difficult question to answer – isn’t everyone involved in art at some point in their life? I think all little kids pick up a crayon at one point in their life. I just happened to hold onto it a lot longer. And my crayon turned out to be a fineliner.
What is your creative process like and where do you make your art? Is it a slow burn and you find yourself working on pieces over a long period of time, or when inspiration strikes, it's all done and dusted relatively quickly?
I recently moved out of home so it isn’t feasible for me right now to be renting a studio as well. But luckily my mediums are all very neat – I’m a neat freak! My life is essentially colour coded and organised with folder dividers. So I’m lucky that my artwork is very precise and makes virtually zero mess, so I can work from home. Weirdly enough, I’m quite mathematical when it comes to my art. I visualise a piece long before I start drawing it, often using photographic references from shoots that I have personally styled. So that process is often very drawn out, but then once I’ve sketched and mapped out a piece, I pretty much dive right into it. That’s just how I am in life. I can meander around a park for hours by myself doing nothing, or I won’t move from my office chair to even take a break for lunch. There is no in between.
Memento Mori by Alexia Brehas, Image courtesy of artist.
Who or what do you turn to for inspiration on days when creativity just isn’t flowing?
Instagram, always. Particularly photography – I mentioned I like to style my shoots before I take a photo reference, and that’s because I view my art with the eye of a graphic designer or art director. It’s all about composition and angles, and I basically try to imagine what the image in my mind would look like as a photo rather than an artwork. So for that reason I follow a lot of fashion blogs, stylists, and art directors. Jessica Walsh is my queen.
What is your favourite artwork of someone else’s, and why?
My favourites fluctuate on an almost weekly basis, there’s just that much good art out there. I am generally drawn to female artists, though. But probably at the moment it would be any single one of Lina Iris Viktor’s works – that woman is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Her work also focuses on portraiture and patterns a lot, but she uses real gold in her gilding, as well as Yves Klein Blue. I am always captivated by rare or unusual materials like that, and I think we share the same desire for luxury and excess in art. I also really admire the way she integrates herself into the artwork, as both the artist and subject. The first Viktor piece I ever saw was Venus V Aphrodite so that may just be my favourite.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
“Stop saying sorry.” My sister told me that. She’s younger than me but so much wiser in a lot of ways. I have a tendency to apologise for everything, it’s kind of like all those articles that talk about women who use “just” to soften their sentences. But by using those words you are removing your power and doubting yourself. People, especially young women, often doubt ourselves and our abilities - we feel like we’re not enough, or haven’t given enough. It’s only when you feel entirely, one hundred per cent sure of yourself that you will be allowed the freedom to create your best work.
Charon by Alexia Brehas, Image courtesy of artist.
What question do you wish we'd asked you, and what would your answer have been?
“What’s your favourite track to listen to when you’re drawing?” Because the answer is 100% Outkast’s Hey Ya! I know all the lyrics. I have a whole 90s and 2000s playlist I like to listen to when I draw – no shame.
*Nods in appreciation and makes note of question*