Meet the artist: Elysia Byrd
What is the inspiration behind your current pieces?
Recently I’ve been working a lot with the motif of fairy tales – set mainly in exotic forests and jungles – and the reworking of memories to make new spaces and situations. Both of the paintings that currently for sale in not just a shop, Rotating Rock Huggers and Cosmic Croz, feature aspects of fantastical stories that have been inspiring me and seeping into my consciousness.
Who has influenced your work the most?
A lot of the work I’m currently making is influenced by JG Ballard’s The Crystal World. I only really noticed the influence in retrospect, but now that I’ve realised it I’m delving more into it. The story is about a forest where everything within it slowly becomes crystallised.
Artists that influence me are Jules de Balincourt for the ways in which he handles ideas surrounding tourism and for his use of colour as a structural base, and Ryan Moseley, for his older, more lyrical work with invented characters from fictionalised histories. The way that Chris Ofili handles the darkness of the jungle and his use of exotic characters and mythologies never fails to excite me. Sebastian Stoehrer’s sculptures are weird and have wonderful shapes in them, and I like how he uses natural things like mushrooms to symbolise German Romanticism. Some younger, emerging artists whose works I particularly like are Sarah Hughes and Stefanie Heinze.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career as an artist?
I’ve always been surrounded by creativity – each member of my family has a certain creative passion, and I’m lucky enough to always be supported so long as I’m pursuing my goal with the utmost passion. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of visiting art galleries and learning to paint with my dad. Despite all this, it wasn’t until my last year of secondary school that I really began to consider following an artistic path. I applied to university to study history of art and Spanish when my art teacher (to whom I will be forever grateful) asked me why I wasn’t going to study fine art. Until then, I don’t really think I ever considered myself good enough or that it could be a real possibility.
What do you want viewers to take away from your work?
A little escapism from the world; I want the viewer to latch on to something they recognise, only to have the painting debunk their sense of clarity. I want people’s own stories and imaginings to be elicited as they explore the art.
Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had are when people divulge their own stories that have been recalled by looking at the work. It makes the art take on its own life, grow out of itself and the space that I initially intended it to exist in.
What three things are essential to your practice?
- Keeping a sketchbook or notebook on me at all times
- Music – it helps to get me into the zone.
What is the most inspiring place or exhibition you’ve been to in London?
I always love the V&A – whenever I visit I feel such a sense of comfort. I’ve been going ever since I was a young child and I still love their collection, especially the Indian miniatures. Their library is particularly fantastic – great for writing and thinking. I love the Sir John Soane’s Museum as well – there’s a sarcophagus and an ancient papyrus in there that I’m fascinated by.
Having my studio in Brixton is a constant source of inspiration – I love wandering around the market looking for colour inspiration.