- Harriet Maher
Artist Profile: Alicia Beech
Bold, immersive and expressive, New Zealand artist Alicia Beech's practice is dedicated to celebrating and embodying the joys of nature. Working in vivid acrylic across large-scale canvases, her paintings create tessellated, intriguing patterns that bring the outdoors in, and provide an abstracted view of the world around us. The artist translates her personal experiences and sentiments from being in her garden in Te Puna, New Zealand, into an exploded geometry of colour and pattern. For me, it's the hazy distinction between abstraction and natural motifs and the unapologetically jubilant use of colour, that make Alicia's works so compelling and interesting.
Image courtesy of the artist
I was so grateful to be given an insight into Alicia's artistic process, the inspiration behind her work, and where she's planning on heading next. The artist opened up about her personal journey as an artist and some of the obstacles she's faced along the way
HM: Can you describe your process of art making? You mention you create mixed media paintings, could you expand on this?
AB: My ideas and inspiration come from my time spent gardening and out in nature combined with my love of 19th and 20th Century abstract art. When I’m out and amongst it all I mentally deconstruct flowers, leaves, bushes, butterflies, rocks, landscapes, rivers, sand dunes, clouds, even the light or feeling of the wind into abstract shapes and colours. Lately I've been sitting down and writing little stories about scenes, describing what I see in my mind. I give these little descriptions/ daydreams names which can then become the vibe for my paintings.
Each painting begins with an underpainting which is created either with acrylic or inks or aerosol. I move the colours around, blending and shading with no predetermined ideas of composition or colour placement. It is a very intuitive process. I then decide on a theme based on the vibe the underpainting gives me. The underpainting provides the basis for composition and I work with the natural movement of the painting.
Image courtesy of the artist
Imagery is created from my imagination. I take myself into what I call a childlike state of mind (no inhibitions, a joyful, playful state of mind). I bring abstract and representational imagery together using natural motifs, patterned elements, flower like shapes, hard to define organic forms, geometric patterns and mark making.
I use mixture of acrylic, gouache and vinyl paint in bold colour palettes to create my scenes. I have always been attracted to and used bright colours in my work. Mother nature doesn’t hold back on her use of colours and so I take my inspiration from her. I combine layers of transparent backgrounds with solid-coloured forms. The process of achieving solid opaque colour on elements with smooth defined edges takes time and patience. However, I think about how long it takes for a little flower to grow from a seedling into a beautiful spectacle and it allows me to relax into the flow of it. It’s always worth it in the end.
HM: How has your location in the Bay of Plenty affected your work as an artist and your subject matter? Have you always lived and worked there?
AB: I feel incredibly blessed to live in the beautiful BOP. Inspiration is literally everywhere. We live on a lifestyle property which has lots of trees and we are surrounded by rolling hills, with a little beach at the end of our road and an amazing natural park called the Tepuna Quarry just up the road from us.
I have lived in the BOP for most of my life however it wasn’t until we moved to our lifestyle property in December 2018 that I began to paint in the style you see now. It was also in 2018 that I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer which resulted in 2019 being a year of surgeries and chemotherapy. During this time creating was difficult for me, however it did wake me up to the realisation that I wanted to pursue my dream as a full-time career artist. (Being faced with my own mortality really made me think about what I wanted to do with my life). At that stage my art style was quite different, Creatively I was blocked, but I continued to create.
2019-2020 Summer Garden
Once I had regained my strength we began working on the gardens on the property. I've always had a love for flower gardens but never had the space to create one. In 2020 I created a garden which in my mind was like a canvas. I scattered flowers of all shapes and colours throughout it. It was awesome! And then the ideas began to flow. I felt like a little kid again wanting to paint imaginary gardens and landscapes. Each year I now plant a new annuals garden. Every spring a new blank canvas. That is how my current style began and last year I took the leap into full time art.
2021-2022 Summer Garden
HM: How would you describe your artistic style in 3 words?
AB: Colourful, playful, rhythmic
HM: What do you hope your art does for people?
AB: Sparks their imagination. Makes them look at nature differently. Makes them contemplate nature more. Sometimes I get messages from people with a photo of a garden or flowers saying “this made me think of your paintings”. That makes me so incredibly happy!!!
I hope it brings them joy, elevates their mood. I hope it brings them contemplation and nudges or awakens their inner child.
I hope it brightens and brings some colour to their lives. I hope it makes people want to take life a little bit less seriously.
HM: What's next for you?
AB: I’m working on creating larger works and slowly building up to having a solo show one day. I’m taking each day as it comes. Ensuring my art practice/business is sustainable and that my work is of the highest quality and the best that I can deliver is my priority.
You can check out more of Alicia's enchanting works on her website, and keep up with her practice on Instagram!
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