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For Alexandra Lekias, creating art is to visually articulate nostalgia. Her painstakingly intricate illustrations, each laden with lashings of psychedelic colour, explore memories most girls could relate to. Her latest exhibition, titled Lifelong Baby Teeth, showcases those coming-of-age moments; some awkward, some funny in retrospect, all created with an awesome and unique creative energy.

So who is Alexandra Lekias?

I’m a girl from Perth who likes to make pictures, hang with my home fries, drink wine, quote Seinfeld and go to my folk’s house for dinner.

Your work is associated with themes such as childhood innocence, teenage awkwardness and the trials of growing up. Are you representing your own memories in your work?

Sometimes yes. Sometimes they are my own memories, sometimes they are memories other people have shared with me, but mostly I have been interested in representing an idea of ‘collective’ and ‘shared’ memory, personal experiences that feel intimate to the individual, but which are experienced almost universally. I’m also really interested in how traditionally or previously childhood and adolescent rite of passage events and the notion of ‘coming of age’ has been cultivated and represented, particularly through film, to the point that it has almost become it’s own narrative genre. And I am also super fascinated by the idea of nostalgia and how people attribute a sort of totemism to particular pop cultural bi-products and texts, the significance of which is indicative of their relationship with their memories of youth, and how this represents a larger web of collective, shared memory.

The name of your show is, Life Long Baby Teeth. Tell us a bit about where that came from?

When I was a little kid, like most kids I’d imagine, I found the notion of becoming an adult really perplexing, not so much in a physical sense, but that one day in the future I would no longer be Alex the child, I would be Alex the teenager and then Alex the adult, and because I identified so strongly with being a child, the thought of having to abandon this fun state of being really did not appeal to me.  As a child, I guess I imagined it not as a slow evolution but as an instantaneous metamorphosis in three phases- first shedding the frivolous imagination of being a kid, then taking on a new form as a difficult teenager and then a sensible adult. Of course in reality it is not that cut and dry and as you do get older you realise that while you change physically, you never completely grow out of the person you are from your childhood, you carry that through the entirety of your life.

At what point did you realise you were an artist?

As unromantic as it sounds, I think it was when people that I didn’t know came to see my first solo show in Perth and actually purchased my work. The idea that a person would part with their hard earned clams to put a piece of my art in their personal environment blew my mind! It was very humbling and at the same time an affirmation that I was getting on the right track and gave me confidence to create more and work to pursue making my drawings as a career. I love making my art more than anything and hope to just keep on drawing and see where that takes me.

Do you think it’s hard to be taken seriously as a young female artist in Australia?

Hmmm…it depends I guess. I have noticed that in most creative industries and scenes like music, street art, advertising etc, there can be a prevailing sense of the ‘boys club’. But I am very new to this game; I’m a zygote on the Australian art scene, so I guess I’m not really in a position to comment. But because I work alone and don’t really fall into any particular ‘scene’ as such it hasn’t really been an issue for me…so far, fingers crossed!

As cheesy as it sounds, I do believe if you are creating honest work, are thoughtful in concept and technical execution of an idea, take pride in what you create and go for it, you can’t feel too bad about things because you have personal satisfaction in what you’re doing.

You paint with watercolour and then painstakingly illustrate the rest in black ink, sometimes taking up to 400 hours. Do you have an idea before you start a piece of artwork or does it just take on a life of its own?

I definitely have an overall concept and idea for each piece before I start drawing. For me the process of making art is a two-parter.  First concept- I do my research both primary and secondary to help generate an overall concept for a collection of work and then go into the ideation phase where I sketch out as many relevant ideas for drawings as I possibly can in thumbnails. I then edit and choose the strongest few to draw. So when I enter the drawing phase I already have a pretty clear overall idea of the subject matter and thematic content of the piece.  Once I’ve inked in the main skeleton of the piece I start to work more intuitively on the details. The sometimes unpredictable ‘drippyness’ of the watercolour prompts me to work more organically too which I really like. The paint area is the part I lay down first so it really does inform the composition of the ink drawing. And because its mostly black ink on white paper, it’s not a situation that is forgiving of mistakes so I have to be very careful and focused when I draw as every line is essentially permanent.

Your use of dripping, pouring, gushing colour is such an interesting element in each of your works. There seems to be colour spewing from orifices quite a bit! Can you explain its significance for us?

Ah yes, I do love things coming out of orifices! The significance of which is that the figures in my work are, though their bodily functions, expelling elements of their sub-conscious, their past, their identity, expectations and memories. I want to create a tension between the environment the figures are engaging with, the action they are performing and the content of the material that is being ejected from their bodies, beyond their control. So for example in the piece ‘Passion Pop Wambulance’ the two underage girls are getting drunk for the first time, they are experiencing this strange new mental and physical state and are no longer in control of their emotions. They have gone out with the intent of getting wasted partially fuelled by genuine curiosity and rebellious desire, and partially driven by the social expectation that this is what you are meant to want to do when you reach a certain age. As they are experiencing this new ‘adult’ practice of fun, one of the girls is crying out an entire sleepover party, a recreational activity from a more innocent time that used to be fulfilling a leisure activity enough.

Artists that have inspired you? Failing that, people in general?

I have always loved picture books but I think the main artist that blew my balls away and I truly have been inspired by was Aubrey Bearsley. His work still really resonates with me, the composition is so dynamic and beautifully weighted, his pen work is so fine, confident and beautiful and his subject matter so cheeky, decadent and deliciously perverse.

And the fact that he used black and white and pen and ink and drew and was considered not a draftsman but an artist I thought was fantastic. What a dude, I love him! I think the greatest compliment I have ever been paid occurred recently in Sydney, when this kind older lady walked in off the street to the galley, checked out my work, asked if I was the artist and said “I think your work looks like a modern day young lady Aubrey Beardsley, because it is full of filigrees and naughtiness!” It made me blush! And although I think she might have been a bit too generous in saying that, it was the best thing anyone has ever said to me about my art.

Now, artwork aside, much has also been said about your amazing sense of personal style. How do you feel when you see yourself on Perth’s best-dressed list? And how does your personal style impact on your artwork?

Aww man, I feel a bit embarrassed, it doesn’t mean anything! I’m not very interested in fashion or checking out what other people wear, I mean it’s totally fine if you are, it’s just personally not my thing. However I do love interesting old dresses and accessories, and can definitely appreciate a beautifully made garment. To be completely honest, I just like to wear what I feel comfortable in otherwise you feel like you are wearing a costume. If I wore jeans and a t-shirt I would feel like a proper twat because that’s just not who I am, I wouldn’t feel myself. It’s funny that Perth best dressed thing because over the years I have copped a fair amount of hostility toward the way I dress whilst wandering round the streets of Perth- dudes walking by yelling abuse and stuff- just mental! And then someone thinks I cut it for a Perth’s best dressed list- that’s hilarious!

I do collect second hand dresses though, I’m trying to get 365 so I have one for each day of the year and then I only have to do one big wash annually. I haven’t done a count for a while but I’d guestimate I’d have pretty close to 300 now, so I’ve got a lot of puffy dresses kicking around the apartment where I work and live. They’re always up in my grill so I often pick them up and draw details from them – collars, fabric patterns, sometimes the whole garment, to feature on the girls in my drawings So I guess my dresses do seep into my drawings in that way

Any fashion styles you deeply regret?

Nope. If you only wear what you want to, there’s nothing to regret. I think everyone dresses according to what chapter of their life that they are in, and what you wore 7 years ago you probably wouldn’t care to sport now, but that doesn’t mean it sucked. I think you only get embarrassed by what you wear if you are dressing to adhere to a certain style at that time or to look ‘cool’, and I have never been into that. But I have always had a very strong opinion about what I will and will not wear. Apparently when I was a really little kid I refused to wear the colour red as I felt it was “too strong”, I hated dresses, I never wore one until I was like 17 and since then its all I wear- who’d have thunk it.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully still busting out art! And idealistically, having done a few stints living and working in some bigger cities, I’d be living in a house modelled on the Peter Sellers ‘The Party’ house with a studio attached, on a drawing break drinking a nice red out of a coffee cup, shaking my butt in the air dancing with a fleet of pugs. That’d be pretty, pretty good.

For more work from Alexandra Lekias keep an eye on her website alexandralekias.com which should be launching soon.