Reads: Body by Alexa Coe

London based illustrator Alexa Coe has been a Glasshouse friend for quite some time now, from our very first Q&A in 2015 to our collaborative editorial shoot last year, and we’ve watched as she continues to grow in recognition across the media and fashion industries.

If you’re not familiar with her work, Alexa is known for her simplistic and spontaneous line drawings, often featuring nude bodies drawn without facial detail from unusual perspectives. If not as artwork, you may have even spotted her work through her various collaborations with ceramicists, clothing brands or even phone cases.

This month Alexa has released a very special project of her own design; Body. Featuring new illustrations paired with photographs of Alexa in nude, Body is a beautiful coffee table book produced alongside photographer Kirk Truman. As the book launches this week, we grabbed a moment with Alexa to get an insight into the new publication and her inspiration for the project.

The majority of your artwork is based around various unidentified nude figures, how did it feel to take a step into the limelight and focus on your own body for this project?

I have been using my own body on my Instagram for a while so it does feel quite natural to use it in a creative light, however a book feels a lot more permanent than social media. It was a bit off to look at my own body for so long, though in most of the pictures you will not see my face. I feel that if you have anonymity in your work it’s easier to look at yourself and others in a neutral way. The aim of the book and my work as a whole is to look at the body in terms of shapes rather than as a portrait of anyone.

Do you think it is important for women to acknowledge their own bodies through their own gaze rather than through the lens of others?

It’s so important but almost impossible. We are so used to seeing and photographing ourselves through the filter of social media now, I think it’s very hard to see ourselves without judgement. I have met very few women who are not guilty of this cycle of self-punishment. I think there is much to be said for experiencing our bodies and praising what they can do and achieve rather than scrutinising their physical appearance.

The style of your personal artwork is very spontaneous and free-flowing, did you take the same approach with the photography for BODY or were these more planned out?

I worked on this project in a similar way to how I usually work, though I had to really think about each image in terms of its visibility on a page. There were hundreds of pictures to choose from so I chose images that I felt I could interpret or that interested me, and then I just got drawing.

You and Kirk spent a long time working on this book. Did you find that the style of the images you were creating developed or changed over the course of this time period?

It was definitely interesting working with another person who has such an opposite style and way of working. I think more than anything the process helped me to refine my style and really narrow down what I wanted to put out into the world the most so that it all worked together cohesively.

Is there any particular message you would like to convey through BODY, or is it very much up for individual interpretation?

It’s very much individual interpretation but that is the point I think. It’s about your own experience and view of a body. It’s about an abstract feeling that we are not directing you to feel or see but inviting you to see for yourself. Images of bodies in culture often try to prescribe something to us without offering much room for our own perspective.

Are there any plans for future books or other collaborative projects?

No more books for the moment, but I am working on a number of collaborations with everything from bags to jewellery, as well as my ongoing ceramic collections in collaboration with Kana London. I find working with others super fun as I get to realise my designs in new ways.

What is a typical day in your life, do you draw every day?

I wish, but I do try to. I try and find half an hour to at least just doodle or scratch some ideas out. I think of it as playing an instrument, you need to practice. I usually do some admin, draw, email, go on a walk, exercise and drink a lot of coffee.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would be your dream job?

I suppose this is cheating but I would be a full-time painter. It’s not really that far from reality but I just need to work a little harder. I don’t think I would be ok with not drawing for a living, it keeps me sane.

You can buy Body through Alexa’s website from the 21st March.

Images courtesy of Kirk Truman and Alexa Coe.

Words: Phoebe Grace Ede

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