Brisbane artist Elysha Rei is the personification of the expression “worldly.” Born in Saudi Arabia, she lived with her family in Australia, Thailand, New Zealand and Japan, and travelled with them to Europe, China, Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia and Singapore. This childhood exposure to different cultures, customs and aesthetics, combined with her mixed Australian-Japanese heritage, is the defining influence in a practice that draws upon cross-cultural experiences and observations explored within the aesthetic of Asian design.
The works on display as part of The Ambience Store Project #5 represent two distinct moments in Elysha’s career. The first, a series of hand drawn self-portraits, happened almost by accident during an extended stay in rural North Eastern Thailand, where she was co-founder and director of the international residency program Sam Rit Residency. A response to the intense isolation she felt throughout this time, she used the birds seen within her residential compound as a kind of totem, and reflected on her childhood and family, and the influences that had led her to the life she’d created for herself. Using pencil and paper, Rei’s delicate self portraits became a form of catharsis and she worked through her nomadic upbringing and sense of place.
The second, a collection of delicate paper cuts, provided an opportunity to extend her current practice and explore her immediate domestic environment. Now far from rural Thailand and living in an inner-city unit for the first time, she is adjusting to the change in surroundings. Coming from vast rice fields to security-barred windows has forced her to adapt to notions of space, security and even domestic noises and outward views. The works play visually and metaphorically with the idea of the cage as she explores her awareness of surrounding space.
Elysha Rei’s work is currently on view in The Ambience Store Project until 1 August 2016.