Elysha Rei is a Japanese-Australian visual artist whose work draws upon her mixed heritage and lived experiences between places, cultures and communities. Works in paper cutting, public art and murals are created from personal and historical archives which embed narrative and symbolism within a Japanese design aesthetic. As a grandchild of a Japanese War Bride, Rei’s affinity to Japanese culture stems from the need to preserve her maternal heritage and connect with her Samurai and Tea Master ancestry. Drawn to Japanese design principles and elements in nature, Rei’s works feature strong patterns and motifs that stem from research into records, scientific research and commemorating points in history. With a desire to continually challenge her practice, artist residencies and personal travel inform an important element to her continued creative development. Since completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2008, Rei has created and exhibited work, curated exhibitions and managed cultural spaces across Australia, Japan, New Zealand Thailand and the US.
Notable commissions include:
A key constant in my life has been the transition between places, cultures and communities, with travels between Europe, Africa, the UK, Asia, and around Australia. This has instilled a curiosity to examine my identity through my family’s history. Having Japanese and Australian grandmothers, I am fascinated by the cultural differences between both sides of my family lineage. The cross-roads between East and West are integral to my work, manifesting visually and metaphorically.
My work is often interwoven with a narrative or historical meaning, which invites the viewer to probe deeper than the surface. I relish the opportunity to research new histories and information to respond to site-specific projects. Whether it is the architectural plans of a city hall or the patterns of kimono fabric – each starting point helps to create a story.
Paper-cutting is a contemporary art medium of expression that I favour for both its folklore quality and its unforgiving, yet satisfying, nature. Without the ability to erase lines or paint over a mistake, cutting paper forces me to trust my decisions. It makes me invest in my designs with conviction. I relish the challenge of creating artworks through paper-cutting that are visually captivating as well as structurally refined.
As an extension to paper-cutting, I am enjoying the exploration of alternative substrates and sculptural interpretations of my design-thinking approach. This has enabled me to translate my work into 2D and free-standing sculptures, sandblasted textures, wearable art and textile designs. I am committed to continuing to grow and challenge myself as an artist, exploring new ways of working and producing art and connecting with the communities they're inspired from.