Alice Tye Southern California through the eyes of a Kentish painter

Cover Image - Alice Tye

Alice Tye grew up mostly in Kent, England, but dreaming of the California she saw portrayed in pop culture convinced her that she had been born on the “wrong side of the Atlantic.”

Her fascination for the West Coast grew into her work as an artist and illustrator; it is there in her lithographs of California views and an incredibly detailed four-meter long painting of La Jolla Road, Los Angeles (created through an extensive study of Google Street View).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when she first went to the US on a two-month road trip in 2015, she found it a bit off, struggling to reach a consensus between the West Coast she knew from her imagination and the one she encountered in real life.

The trip inspired her to create the series La Jolla Road Revisited and IRL. Some of these pieces show endless azur skies and sizzling hot asphalt roads while others feature grey clouds and cramped scenes, which ooze a more sinister atmosphere.

Alice’s work therefore not only explores the West Coast as it is, but also her own fascination for this area. “I’ve been trying to work out why I’m so drawn to Southern California for years now,” she explains. “In fact I think that every project I work on depicting that region is partly me trying to figure it out. So exploring both that idealized view and the real California that I travelled to in 2015 has always been a recurring theme.”

Alongside this interesting negotiation, other apparent contradictions play a role in Alice’s work. One of her big passions is modernist and mid-century period architecture. “I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to depicting this style of building is that I love the visual contrast of the trees and foliage that often surround these buildings, against the sharp, clean lines of the architecture.”

Studying these constructions throughout her dissertation, in particular how they are portrayed in popular films, she loves, “how this modern interpretation is so at odds with the idealistic ideas that inspired so many of the buildings.”

In a world that is now digitally defined, capturing these scenes in a classic medium like oil paint results in a refreshing and impressionistic whole. As Alice puts it: “There is something unique about mixing colors in oils and the movement of brush strokes that I can’t seem to replicate in any other media.”

The artist can see future projects resolving around other regions in the USA, as she’s still very interested in the country. But her next project looks east instead of west, and will focus on a trip to Japan, planned for spring 2017.

Although the resulting work is unlikely to look like her US pieces, Alice’s explorations between the real and imagined versions of this new country and its culture will undoubtedly result in some fascinating pieces.