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Interview: Alexandria Coe
05.12.19 Words by Wrap / Photography by Olivier Barjolle

Interview: Alexandria Coe

Her expressive life drawings capture the movement and dynamics of the human body with beautiful simplicity. We sit down with the London-based artist to discuss her work, as well as our recent Wrap X Alexandria Coe collaboration.
05.12.19 Words by Wrap / Photography by Olivier Barjolle

When did you realise you wanted to go into a creative career?

Always. I’ve always wanted to do something creative, even though my ideas of what that meant were always changing. At five I was an artist, at 10 a fashion designer, at 12 I used to trawl through interior design magazines. When I studied textile design, I thought I wanted to make fabric or installations. Then I just wanted to draw, I wanted to illustrate and then when I was too frustrated by briefs I went back to wanting to be an independent artist again.

Your studio is in Soho, in central London – what’s it like working in one of the most vibrant parts of the city?

I love being in the thick of it. I think I’m odd, I find quiet in the hustle. I am not sure I’ll be able to keep it up forever, but I think I will always come back to the city. I like the extremes of super busy and super quiet, I find it stimulating. Everything is black or white to me and the grey space causes laziness. There is something about watching the world spin fast which keeps me thinking, moving and always hungry.

What does an average day entail?

I’d like to say my day was exciting – a walk, a coffee, probably the gym. Movement is really important to me, in order to then be able to sit and focus. Working in Soho, I love to take a short break from break by having a little wander through the narrow streets. It is so alive as a place.

And your downtime – what do you like to do?

I spend my downtime at home, or walking in Hampstead, or going to the cinema – I love watching films. Downtime is about escape for me, I want to switch off entirely, but I need a really good distraction to be able to do so.

The female nude is a central to your work. How did that become your focus?

In my mid-twenties I decided to do a Master’s degree at Central Saint Martin’s. I thought I wanted to study illustration, or fashion illustration, but the course I ended up enrolling on was less concerned with specific technical skills, and more with methods of expressing the personal into your art. Now, in hindsight, I can see that this is what transforms a creative – the ability to bring your mind and personal thoughts to your work. I think the tutors were trying to make me feel something and then teach me to channel it in my own way, and I became fascinated with feminism and body politics, and the study of fashioning bodies. The subject felt personal and I developed a passion for it. This is when I started drawing the nudes – they felt like the perfect symbol for the dichotomy of being a woman. Your body is both a symbol of liberalism and a symbol of restriction, a symbol of both beauty and the ugliness of culture. I wanted to portray my female forms as free.

It’s been a delight to work with you on our Wrap X Alexandria Coe range of letterpress greetings cards and art prints. What inspired the artwork for your collection?

I wanted to keep to my most recognisable motif of the nude female form, but, to make it as approachable as possible, I thought I’d keep the design quite loose and abstract. I also wanted it to be fun – some of my work is quite serious but for a greetings card, I want to think a bit cheekier. The result is beautiful, I loved the idea of them being printed by letterpress, as it gives texture to something quite simple and invites you to touch the card.

Even though there are many steps still to go, there’s an ever-increasing sense of energy and drive towards women’s rights and equality. Do you find this empowering?

I think it’s an exciting time to live in – this movement has opened doors for a lot of female creatives and given them the ability to finally have a voice. But on the other hand, I have a real issue with the commercialisaton of “female empowerment,” and feel that the message is often diluted by imagery and slogans. I think it is important to always be reminding ourselves about what an “empowered female” actually is – what it means to society, and what it means to us personally.

Your Instagram feed is a mixture of your work and photographs of you. What’s the relationship between you and your work?

My work is both personal and impersonal. I use my own body a lot for the images, but rarely talk in the first person. The point of my work is that you are meant to self-reflect and explore your own thoughts about nudity, not mine. I hope that’s what comes across.

Social media is brilliant in so many ways, but it can also make people feel self-conscious…you seem to have amazing confidence, is that true?

I don’t as a person – believe me, the work can also come from a place of deep self-loathing at times. But I have confidence in my own work and my drawings. I believe that true empowerment doesn’t come from our bodies but our minds.

Are you always thinking about the nude?!

Haha no – I do often feel like I should be living on a hot island where I can be seminude most of the time. I love how free nudity makes you feel, the way you move and think when your body can breathe. But no, I, like most creatives, am usually thinking about rent, food, shopping and whether anyone will still be buying my work in a year!

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