This week Brighton Journal spoke to Brighton-based contemporary artist and illustrator, Amber Elise. Amber’s energetic work explores optimism and the vibrancy of colour through traditional methods and digital techniques. She’s the curator of The Dog & Bone Gallery in Powis Square, where her work is currently on display as part of her ‘Pieces of Hope’ solo exhibition. The exhibition continues at the Little Mustard Shop, and features a new series of Amber’s abstract colourful pieces. We discussed Amber’s new mural commission, as well as how she finds inspiration in everyday happenings. Keep reading to find out more about Amber and her vibrant work.
What are you doing today?
I just started a new mural commission. We’ve been planning it since last year so it’s exciting to get started. I spent the whole of yesterday mapping and drawing the design out, today I can start applying some paint.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I’ve been working from our living room at a big round table, with a view into our garden. I have to say I miss having a studio – we moved from London in 2019, two weeks later I had a baby and it’s just been more practical for me to work from home since then. I dream of my next space, it might be in a year or more, but it’s going to be brilliant!
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
Painting murals have always been the most exciting projects for me to work on. My first ever mural was in my local laundrette in Bristol many moons ago. I was absolutely bursting with excitement. I painted the walls, the chairs, created a book exchange, went to town on the place and the owner let me have a party to celebrate. I was completely buzzing from that whole experience.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I spent years dreaming of becoming an artist, but I guess I always lacked the confidence to make it happen. I studied art till A Level, then ended up doing a business degree – I don’t really know why? After a few years working in all sorts of jobs I did my first screen printing course at the RWA and then Spike Island (both in Bristol) and it just snowballed from there. I joined a print studio, started making work, I sold my first piece and ta da, never looked back.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished a new series of paintings. I’ve been working on them for the last few months and it’s great to see them complete. They form a new solo exhibition called ‘Pieces of Hope’ which sits across two Brighton galleries, The Little Mustard Shop (33 Clifton Hill) and The Dog & Bone Gallery (Powis Square). They are incredibly bright, happy abstract paintings. A project that’s kept me busy through the last lockdown. You can view the full collection online.
What are the key themes in your work?
Colour, optimism, self-expression.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
The energy and the vibrancy of colour.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
At the moment I’m concentrating on making paintings and paper cuts. I started out screen printing, I’ve worked with textiles printing, I’ve dabbled in ceramics. I think I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands, learning a craft with a process and trying to get good at it. Saying that, I seem to spend a lot of time drawing on my iPad, so it’s a combination of traditional and digital.
What equipment could you not do without?
Who or what inspires you?
Everyday happenings, I’m always looking at the colours of things, what matches, what clashes, working out new combinations. People’s outfits, the clouds, it’s really varied and a bit random.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
Living by the sea is good for my soul. I’m always amazed by the fluffy skyline of clouds, they look surreal. If I need a lift or to clear my mind it’s a short walk to the beach.
We only moved to Brighton June 2019 so I feel like I’ve had to start over a little bit and make new connections. The city is full of amazing artists, I’ve been curating The Dog & Bone Gallery for the last year and it’s meant I’ve got to meet and connect with some local artists.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
Take a walk along the seafront on a clear sunny day, get some fresh donuts and enjoy the view.
What’s your favourite gallery or place to see/experience art?
It’s hard to choose just one, but if I had to choose I’d say Tate Modern. That’s the gallery I’ve probably visited the most. More locally, the Brighton Museum has a great permanent collection, I’ve walked around it many times.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
Yayoi Kusama. I find her work and her story fascinating. Her installations are mesmerising, her colours and patterns are really powerful. Just to meet her would be incredible, but to work together…yes please!
What’s your favourite colour?