The Graphic Artist Whose Idiosyncratic Works Draw Us Into Her World – Lexi Lei
“You can tell easily that all the art came from a girl’s inner world,” says graphic artist Lexi Lei when I ask how she’d describe her art. A Hunan native, Lexi is currently based in Shenzhen and produces wonderfully idiosyncratic works derived from her own personal life experiences.
“At first, I wanted to release my pain, to comfort myself through my artworks,” she continues, “then after a period of time I felt the energy changed, kind of like burying the old me and starting anew, my artworks became light, funny and joyful… but mostly weird!” she says with a chortle. Looking through Lexi Lei’s work is indeed joyful.
A year ago she wanted to explore digital art and so began using Wacom tablet on Photoshop, “because it’s so flexible and convenient.” Her series A Girl in Underwear, which is currently on display at MASH Gastropub in Shenzhen, is an intriguing insight into the mind of a young Chinese woman, their hopes, fears and desires.
Lexi would post the different drawings on Instagram before her friends started asking why the girl was always shirtless and in her underwear. “Then I found out, yeah, the girl seems to wear only underwear.” It seems that Lexi didn’t even notice this until it was pointed out to her.
“Many girls when they are alone at home in a private situation, especially during hot summer times, the most comfortable condition is wearing underwear only,” Lexi explains. “When I am drawing I feel the most relaxed, so here it is – A Girl In Underwear.”
But there’s more to her work than just “a girl in underwear”. Her works are full of symbolism, for example a cactus. “I love cactus, I think it means strong, tough, persistence and it’s a fighter,” she reveals. “In my artworks, cactus usually grows out of a girl’s body, it’s like an armor, to protect herself from this dangerous world. But if the cactus grows out of her head then it shows the pain and struggles she’s been through. Imagine this, a cactus on your head!”
And the fruits – strawberries and watermelon – what do these mean? “That all stands for summer,” she tells me. “I was born in summer and I love summer so much. By the way, strawberry is my favorite fruit, it’s kind of natural to embed my favorite things in my drawings.” And this is what makes her artworks so fun and alluring; she draws what she enjoys as well as using art as a way to release her inner most feelings.
There is one piece that stands out as being much darker and less playful. It involves a demon of some sort stabbing a bare chested girl straight through the heart. It’s captioned ‘THE END’. “I was suffering a heartbreak during that time, my heart had just been snatched out of my chest, sliced open,” Lexi recalls. “In the meantime I had a huge self-doubt, loathed myself, was frustrated and depressed. So I used frustration, anxiety, depression and sadness to fuel my creativity.”
There’s so much to see in Lexi’s work, you can keep looking at the images and finding different symbolism and themes. “I always colored the skin in different colors, just like I do my hair in real life,” she says of the characters in her work. In fact those characters are likely to actually be her as “my muse is myself.”
Lexi is also involved in music, where she does the artwork for Mettāsonic, a drum & bass label in Shenzhen. She also has plans to make a comic book with a friend titled, The Handbook to Healing your Heartache.
As we come to the end of our chat I ask Lexi if she thinks her art is feminist? “I’ve heard that some people think my art is feminist, but I never meant to do it that way,” she muses. “I draw my art freely, without any restrictions. I think each human being is equal in every kind of way so there’s no such thing as feminist. Well, in my opinion.”