Elysha Rei is a Japanese-Australian visual artist whose work draws upon her mixed heritage and lived experiences between 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:
My work allows me to stay connected to the culture of my Japanese heritage. I grew up surrounded by beautiful Japanese ornaments which adorned our family homes. From koinobori fish kites, to kimono and kokeshi dolls, I adored and admired these pieces which played a role in creating a sense of home whilst my family consistently moved throughout the Asia Pacific. When I continued travelling in my adult life, each new abode would always feel complete once these precious trinkets and an artist studio was set-up. This cultural surrounding in my childhood homes along with my time growing up in Asia was the start of my creative influence.
After adjusting to living in different communities and cultures over the years, my sense of identity as a Japanese Australian has become an anchor point whilst I navigated so much change. It was on a pilgrimage to Japan in 2018, that this connection to my heritage was cemented. Travelling from Kyushu to Tokyo, I followed in the footsteps of my ancestors - a samurai and a tea master – and my maternal Japanese grandmother and Australian grandfather’s love story post WWII. I found my purpose as an artist is to preserve this part of my family's heritage through the use of Japanese design aesthetics in my work, which provides a constant source of inspiration. As the grandchild of a Japanese war-bride in Australia, the cross-roads between East and West are integral to my work, manifesting visually and metaphorically.
I am committed to growing and challenging myself as an artist, exploring new ways of working and producing that always connects back to honoring my family’s culture and heritage. I enjoy paper-cutting as a medium that requires design-thinking and craftsmanship in order to achieve a work that is both visually captivating and structurally refined. This design approach has allowed me to expand beyond papercutting to large scale installations, large-scale murals, sculptural pieces, wearable art, sandblasted pavements designs, and projection work.
My work always has an interwoven narrative. This may be stories from my own experiences as a mother, breast cancer survivor or my family’s history. With client commissions I enjoy telling the stories of other communities and their histories. Creating commissions allows me to research archives and scientific studies, and form relationships with communities which conjure visual representations that create site-specific works.