There’s a pretty high chance you’ve already stumbled upon Alycia’s magical digital creations somewhere around the internet and social media, together with the word ‘Malavida’ written closeby. I surely did - it was long, long time ago and ever since I’ve been using her mystical abstractions as screensavers and covers, enriching my visual settings with flowy, liquidy shapes expressed through mesmerising combination of colors. There’s something special, pure and direct in the way abstract art communicates to us - or at least that’s my experience of it. Unburdened by the form that immediately invites our minds to jump in and label it, box it and categorise it, abstraction speaks directly to that place within us that knows no words or forms, neither it needs any. When the mind is left out of equation, we get the opportunity to experience art in a deeper manner as the filter is off and the channel of reception remains unobstructed.
I adored finding out about Alycia’s story, where the name ‘Malavida’ came from, how she views her role as artist/designer and beautiful insights she shares on spiritual and psychotherapeutic benefits of artistic expression - whether you consider yourself an ‘artist’ or not.
Enjoy the interview with this fascinating, talented and courageous lady!
To start off at a lighter note… What is your definition of art? :P
I think that my definition of art would be really basic, generally speaking. For me, art is mainly about people creating things via any kind of medium that will help them to represent or express an idea, a concept, a feeling … But at the same time, I think I’m not fond of the way how the word art categorizes creative actions.
Many times in designer realms we hear artists being labeled as “egotistical” or even “narcissists” as the art they produce often doesn’t have a direct serving purpose to the people, contrary to design (at least design in the traditional meaning of the term). Do you believe we can create good art starting from the thought of how the message will serve and enrich people’s lives instead of diving deep and expressing what asks to be expressed and letting the message naturally emerge from the finished work?
As both a designer and an artist, it’s really hard for me to answer. I’ve been trying for a certain time now to incorporate expressive value to my way of designing, according to how I’m working for my art projects. I’ve been really inspired by Strange Design: From Objects To Behaviours lately, and how design could move away from a merely functional aspect to a vision more concerned by creating flaws than modeling practices. Of course, the fact that artists can be perceived as «egotistical» or even «narcissists» could be due to a desire for self-expression. Artists want to express their opinions, feelings, statements … And to be honest, I feel like I’m one of them. We tend to create from a subjective perspective, in a way of reacting to life and to the world, and in a response to an urge and a deep need of expression. I guess that’s maybe why some artists can be perceived as drowned in the ego aspect, but that’s something really common, even if you’re not an artist. There’s ego everywhere. However, when it comes to design, you’re supposed to create for other’s purpose, and most of the time in a functional way. It doesn’t mean that lots of artists aren’t creating from an outer perspective point. There are so many artists out there that are really engaged and devoted to topics that are clearly expressed through an artwork. To me, the boundaries between art and design statements are really thin. Everything always depends on the way you’re setting your expectations and work methodologies on a project. I guess that art and design both have lots of things to learn from each other.
Is there really a single message to a piece of art or there are as many messages as there are people consuming an artwork?
I guess that there’s always a singular and main idea coming from an artwork. But from my personal experience, I tend to think that, in fact, you can always reach new perceptions. Having lots of conversations with people about my work helps me to understand this fact, and I always find it so interesting how everyone is seeing and feeling something different according to their own mind. The fundamental intention of the artwork stays the same, but like everything in life, everything is always nuanced and non-binary.
Can you recall when were you first drawn to visual arts and what it meant to you?
I’ve always been pretty close to art and creative fields, generally speaking. I remember being younger and always go to lots of different exhibitions with my parents and stuff. We were also traveling a lot at the time. I guess that my mind has always been really attracted to new shapes, new colors etc. Before starting my studies in graphic design, I was already really attracted by abstract art such as painting, drippings, geometrical works … It was as usual, pretty subjective I guess. I was feeling something else with visual art, in general. And maybe, because I’m all about listening to my gut, my feelings, and my mind, everything fell into place slowly but surely.
Do you see art as a spiritual practice?
Absolutely. And generally speaking, I truly believe that the creative process is such a spiritual tool. Some people may know it already, but that’s the main reason why I started doing art. I’m really interested in spirituality and psychology, both of them are a huge part of my life. I feel really connected to Jungian therapy, where creative exercises are such a powerful and useful approach. I’m always speaking in a subjective way, so of course, I may not be 100% true, but I do agree on the fact that art can definitely serve self-development. Creating things daily has changed so many things in my life, in my way of perceiving myself and others. It may be because it gives you the passion you were seeking for or because it teaches you things about yourself, goods and bads. But at the end of the day, you can’t deny that you evolved.
Most of the people know you under you Instagram handle “Malavida”. Can you tell us more about how you came up with that name and why?
Ok so basically, this was supposed to be a joke. At the time, I was starting to create daily because I felt the need to express myself, to work on my feelings, mostly my anxiety and depression. I’m always really open about my flaws and about my mental health in general. We always throw a lot of jokes at ourselves with my friends because of the fact that we’re open about our general issues, and that we’re trying to accept things as they are. So making jokes about it, sometimes, helps you to take it easier. I wanted to share my work with others, but I wanted a different name. I wanted to create something like a persona, something able to represent one of the many sides of my personality, without being fully myself. Without, I guess, having to fully be Alycia Rainaud. We just browse for short names that could make you think about the painful aspect of life in an ironical way. One day my friend came to me with this really french play on word saying « J’ai mal à la vie » which basically means my life hurts. And it quickly became Malavida for « Bad Life ». As you can tell from our humor level, we’re not really fun people.
Do you believe artistic expression can be therapeutic even for the people that believe not to have talent for arts?
Of course. As I said previously, I’m really interested in Jungian therapy and inspired methods. The main goal of these practices is to help people on a therapeutic aspect, by leading them into the creative process. They can be based on drawing, painting, writing, playing … All sorts of medias can become a way of expressing yourself. Plus, you don’t need to be an artist to access artistic/creative expression. I truly believe that simple tools and methodologies can make you learn things about yourself, make you click way more easily and have therapeutic benefits. At least it does for lots of people I know, including myself.
“Create before you consume” - what do you think about that one? How much do you consume other artists’ work and does it always inspire you to continue to create more and better or there are also moments of self-judgment, comparison and feeling not good enough as an artist?
This sentence may be true, but because of the fact that these two words are in the same sentence, it doesn’t feel right for me. I can understand the desire of being the « pioneer » of your own work before consuming others creative’s work that could make you lose your fundamental idea. But at the same time, everything is based on an eternal inspiration circle, and in my opinion, it’s a good thing. As long as inspiration doesn’t mean copy. Plus, the word consume might ring true because of the capitalist aspect of our society, but I’m gonna try not to use it in this answer. As you may imagine, as a digital artist, I tend to be really connected, especially on art networks. That’s how I access and discover most of the creative content I like. But of course, the fact that we’re consuming so much and so fast ⏤in this case due to technology⏤, tend to modify our behaviors on a more general aspect. Including the way we apprehend art. My work is mainly exhibited on Instagram, as lots of digital artist out here. That’s how I started, that’s how I discovered lots of my favorite artists and designers. That’s also how I stay inspired, by seeing amazing artworks every day, speaking with so many interesting people and collaborating with talented creatives. Lots of creatives out here are posting new artworks daily, constantly challenging themselves, trying new things. It’s such an inspiring and motivating thing to be part of this community. Most of the artists I’m following are really helpful, sharing and kind people. I always feel amazed by everyone’s work and engagement out here. Being able to access new creative content daily is something beautiful yet terrifying. I guess that as a lot of people but mostly as an anxious and depressed person, a lot of this positive aspect tend to be quickly replaced by doubts, fears, and anxiety. I have never been confident about myself or my work, and I’m still processing it. I’m also really perfectionist or should I say obsessive. Nothing is good enough for me when it comes to work. I know for a fact that this is the case for most creatives out here. I guess that all these amazing and inspiring people indirectly puts a lot of pressure on me. I always tend to think that I should create more, post more, rest less, do something different, try a new style, answer people, do tutorials … And it’s a never-ending spiral. We’re always comparing ourselves, trying to please everyone, trying to reach a satisfactory level and it’s the same for art. I’ve been speaking a lot about it and collecting testimonies from other creatives in order to write an article about all these aspects. Hopefully soon. We should speak more about this reality.
Any tips’n’tricks to get into the creative flow on shitty, dry days?
Honestly, I’d like some tips’n’tricks for myself too. I mean, you can try to overcome this effect, but it’s still really hard to force the creative flow. You definitely can feel when there’s this battle between the fact that you want to, but you can’t. And because any creative practice is directly connected to your mind, both parts need to be healthy and recharged to work together. I’m not talking about procrastinating of course, but if you feel like you can’t do anything, that nothing is coming to your mind or hands, then rest. Do something else, or do nothing. And it’s ok to be that way. Usually, when I can’t create something, I’m trying to wait for a couple of hours or for the next day. There’s a reason if the creative process isn’t popping and I feel like we need to process and accept it.
Do you feel that doing art as a full time job sometimes puts pressure and makes it more difficult to truly let go and immerse yourself in creative process?
It sure is. It’s either a self-pressure, an external pressure, or both. I’ve been doing art/design as a full-time job for six months now, and it really affects my creative process and life in general. Everything tends to be more serious and « practical related ». Mostly when creating becomes directly linked to being able to live your life, make money, pay taxes, rents etc. It’s like still being the same artist, but there’s always a voice in your head that has an influence on what you’re going to create. You always have to keep in mind the reason why you started doing this, try not to lose your identity and own values.
You mentioned in some other interviews gathering your inspiration from hybrid books, amongst other things. Can you explain what are hybrid books and why they amaze you so much?
Besides being a digital artist, I’m still a designer, and above all, a book designer. I’ve been passioned for years and years about books and print design. During all my studies, I always wanted to create books and prints for any kind of topics. Moreover, I wrote and worked on a thesis dealing with books and psychology where I talked a lot about the book’s shape and psyche. So the main idea of the book shape as we know it is often represented as Codex (a book cover with sheets assembled on the inside). It’s still a bit difficult for me to truly define hybrid books, but I would say that they are objects that are consequently trying to take distances from the conventional book shape. Hybrid books can be a good way to enhance contents and user experience by shaping books in alternative ways: sometimes by making them interactive (manipulation, electronic books …), sometimes with pages unsealed from the cover, sometimes augmented … I guess hybrid books really focus on the content/shape ratio. Good examples for hybrid books that I always share because they’re my favorites are either the Volumique Editions projects or the Alberto Hernandez Hybrid Novel on The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Do you prefer to be called designer or artist? Why?
I always have in mind and relate to this sentence from a Vasjen Katro conference where he’s saying «Artists call me designer and designers call me artist». That’s how I’m feeling. The fact is, I’m both. I don’t want or need to choose a side. I always truly believe that the boundaries between art and design are really thin. Would you call a Swiss Knife a Scissor-Saw-Filer-Corkscrew Knife? I’m a person, I can do a lot of things, but at the end of the day, I just want people to call me by name, an identity gathering all these skills.
What are you working on at the moment?
Lots of things. I’m of course working on my daily art posts, some cool collabs and secret projects soon to be revealed!
Do you have any advice for "artists in rising" that want to attract more attention to their work?
It’s always hard to be noticed and noticeable. Make sure to experiment with different medias, try to find your identity, what do you want to say or show. Stay inspired but don't copy. Try to create small things every day to build your own universe and learn the things that you like or not. Try to share your work and talk about it with other creatives, don’t be afraid of asking for advice. But most of all, stay true and listen to yourself.
Can we expect any expositions of your work outside of France anytime soon?
I don’t have any exhibitions planned outside of France for 2019, but I’d be more than happy to!
✴ QUICK FIRE ROUND ✴
Working in silence or with music?
Book that marked you in a particular way:
Strange Design: From Objects To Behaviors
Charles Bukowski - Mind and Heart
Warm or cold colours?
Both but warmer
Favourite music album cover
Tame Impala - Currents
✴ CONNECT WITH ALYCIA ✴