We managed to sit down with Alicia – a self-confessed caffeine, spray can and Cape Town addict – over a cup of coffee recently and threw some questions at her trying to figure out what happens inside that amazingly talented mind of hers.
Originally from Australia, this artist better known as Cheeky Observer, has found a new home in South Africa and has managed to create a serious name for herself! You have most likely experienced one of her murals at a local Vida E or been inspired by one of her mesmerizing typography slogans.
What started you in your career of art?
I’ve been painting and drawing all my life, but it took me a few years and many roundabouts of working in various jobs to set myself squarely on the path of pursuing art as a full-time career. Despite its challenges, nothing else in this world gives me the same sense of satisfaction like making an idea come to life with my bare hands.
What inspires you to create art?
I have an insatiable thirst for new information – I spend a lot of time reading papers and books, listening to conversations and researching obscure topics. As a result, my work presents itself as an ongoing exploration into different themes. Right now I’m developing work concurrent to my research into the modern intersection of science and spirituality. What is emerging out of the fields of neuroscience, quantum physics, biophysics (and more) is incredibly fascinating in that it’s re-ignited an investigation into consciousness and started to break down much of the rigidity that has defined Western thinking for the last few hundred years. Looking at this from a creative lens, I see such a wealth of material that I can start to unpack visually.
How would you describe your art?
A collision of realism and abstraction. My creative output is a mix of large scale mural work, typography and fine art that considers the human experience on many levels: as we exist in relation to the natural environment; to society; and the subtler aspects of the self that relate to our higher order of being. Seminal to my process is consideration of audience – I want my creative ideas to be easily accessed and interpreted. I try to strike a balance between conceptual depth and visual “relatability” in order to appeal to different audiences. As such my work can be found on the street, in commercial environments, in gallery spaces and online.
What is your go-to medium(s) to use when you create?
I love to work with acrylic, aerosols, ink and the endless possibilities of digital media.
Where are you based? Why there?
I have been living in Cape Town for the last two years, having moved from my home in Australia. I love the South African culture, both in its similarities and differences to the culture in which I was raised. I also love the accessibility to wild nature in Cape Town – we’re beyond lucky.
Who are some of your favorite artists (local and/or international)?
Such a long list. Marina Abramović is heroic. Yayoi Kusama, Refik Anadol, Crystal Wagner.
From the realm of urban art – Alexis Diaz, Shepard Fairey, Hueman, Cryptik, Rone, Caratoes, Faith47, Sonny, Faust. Adnate – I’ll never forget watching him paint live a few years ago – his working is mesmerising.
Any plans/changes/exhibitions/projects/anything exciting on the horizon for the near future?
Hopefully! I’ve been building an idea for an immersive exhibition for the last few months. Fingers crossed I can find the perfect space to get it up and running by the end of the year.
Also, there is a possible upcoming Shift x Unsung Art colab coming up where I will be doing another Hand Lettering workshop at one of their stores….more on this later though…
Tell us about some of your recent artworks?
My most recent series of artworks this year have been exploring the theme of Infinity; calling into consideration the infinite aspects of the self, of our reality, and of infinite symbolism in nature. It’s still a work in progress, but the output so far has amounted to two walls, quite a few typographic treatments and even a T-shirt design which is something new to add to my portfolio.
I’ve also just finished a new collection of illustrated Chanel bags (now available through my Unsung Art shop). This style of found art has been an ongoing project of mine for the last couple of years as it has been received so well. I love the idea of repurposing what’s essentially high brow landfill (packaging waste) and transforming it into ‘low-brow luxury’ – an artwork that someone can treasure that simultaneously toys notions of consumerism, sustainability, irreverence and beauty.
We have also seen and heard that you have been part of a great initiative with 350Africa. Would you like to give some more info on that and what it is about?
Oh wow! Yes, I do lots of work for 350Africa…mostly illustration and graphic design work. I love working with them because I am very passionate about sustainability and supporting the fight against climate change myself so it is a great way for me to do my part to help raise awareness. In May last year, 350Africa hosted a campaign calling on local government to divest from fossil fuels. This was part of a global movement by 350.org to give people a voice in the climate crisis. I did some illustrated banners, T-Shirts, postcards and other collateral for the campaign. The overall result was very promising – in response Mayor Patricia de Lille of Cape Town made a public commitment to divest from fossil fuel assets and companies in favour of cleaner investments.
What has been your best memory/experience related to your art?
I love the intense feeling of satisfaction that comes with completing a large scale artwork, as painting murals comes with so many challenges – physically they’re very demanding, and there’s always a high amount of problem solving required – navigating odd spaces, heights and weather conditions. I love the challenge and the sense of having done a great job it at the end.
What other interests/hobbies do you have?
I’m a big outdoors person – I love going on adventures and spending time in nature.
The Italian in me also loves cooking and experimenting with new dishes – to me it’s another form of creative expression.
Keep an eye on our social media pages for an exciting upcoming project where Alicia will be hosting a Hand Lettering Workshop at Shift Espresso Bar in Cape Town – we are extremely proud to be part of this project and will release more details on this very soon.
To see all CheekyObserver works available from our online store, check out her profile on our site.