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Leila Saint James & Her Cosmic Rebellion

Leila Saint James & Her Cosmic Rebellion

Born in Luxembourg, the Berlin-based artist spent her childhood traveling the world, drawing people she met and collecting things she saw. Colorful and humorous, the artist’s work is a fanciful whimsy of child-like inspiration: snippets of conversations she misinterprets, things that sound absurd, and faraway places that she’s never been to.

Tell us about this series of work.

This body of work was created during the first lockdown in 2020. From one moment to the next, the world and my own world was turned upside down and I was left with lots of time on my hands as well as a racing mind and an overflow of ideas. Seeing the world come to an abrupt halt, people leaning back into the simplicity and stillness of life whilst at the same time seeing mother earth finally able to breathe again, made me think about how darkness is inevitably followed by light, that they are intrinsically linked. How everything in nature seems to be perfectly timed and orchestrated. ‘A Cosmic Rebellion’ was born out of exactly this reflection.

Where do you source your materials?

Berlin is such a vibrant and inspiring place to live which is also where I source most of my materials.

What motivates you to create?

I guess my motivation to create stems from a need for therapeutic escapism. I have always been a very observing person, trying to understand myself and the world around me, sometimes to my own detriment. At this point in time, I am trying to distill my life and existence to very simple things, trying to make sense of the world around me and getting back to who I was as a child. Finding joy in the small things, stillness in a very busy world and a place of weightlessness in a sometimes very heavy world.

What is your creative process?

I usually begin any painting with a title already in mind. Storytelling is a big part of my life as I work as an actress as well, so this sets the tone and narrative for what I want to bring to life on my canvas. I usually produce a rough sketch, experiment with colours and then move to the canvas where I then let myself be free, explore things in a child-like and intuitive fashion.

What is your approach to color?

Color is incredibly important in my practice. I am very particular about what colors I like and dislike and a shade that is not quite right for me can make or break it. My favourite color has always been pink: it’s such a complex color, defined in many different and often contradicting ways; you either love it or hate it. I certainly do love bright and vibrant colors in a way to counter-act the sometimes somber world we live in.

Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?

There’s so many that I am influenced by. I love Johanna Dumet’s work for her playfulness and storytelling. Inès Longevial’s exploration of the female body in all its colorful glory. The freedom of expression and simplicity found in Martin Paaskesen’s work as well as David Altmejd’s sculptures.

What is your philosophy on life?

I have always believed that everything in life happens exactly as it should. It might not be easy to fully accept this at all times, but I try to hold on to this. I am learning to trust my instinct more as it really has never proven me wrong. I like holding space for myself and others and lean into the beauty of the ordinary. That’s where the treasures of life are to be found.

Above: The artist with her work ‘I Go Out Unkempt More Often Than Not’ (2020).
Below: Leila Saint James, Cosmic Rebellion (2020).

Who is someone that inspired your own practice and what you’re creating these days?

I’m very inspired by music, poetry and the written text. Amongst many artists, I feel a very great connection to Lana Del Rey. There’s something about her way with words and the images she conveys that really hit a nerve.

What’s something you will not be doing in 10 years?

If life has shown me anything, it’s that this quote is the truest of them all: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. So who knows? One thing I know for sure though is that I will definitely not be living in a north facing apartment in 10 years’ time. I need sunlight today and always!

See Also

Tools or mediums you’re dying to experiment with?

Definitely oil paint! I want to develop my weaving technique and explore ceramics too!

Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what are you listening to right now?

Sound always and forever. I love listening to podcasts (How I built this, Almost 30, how to fail, more than one thing) or music and audiobooks. Lana Del Rey’s spoken word album is a gem!

If you could have a drink with one artist, who would it be?

Hilma af Klint. I find her incredibly inspiring for having been so very much before her time and for being guided by her intuition and spirituality.

What makes you laugh no matter what?

Freudian slips!

Name your favorite female artist.

Etel Adnan.

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