Talented artist Alexander Rhys is making a name for himself with his bold unconventional style – which includes painting with bricks!
Alexander Rhys is testament to what can be achieved if you have talent, ambition and the will to follow your dream. At the age of 14 Alexander says he ‘realised something wasn’t quite right’ as he suffered from excessive levels of anxiety. Unlike most teenagers, he was weighed down with unremitting levels of worry and he was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Now 29, Alexander looks back and says: “OCD has always been a problem, but when I discovered painting I found it very helpful and therapeutic. It gives me a feeling of zen.” The artist, who is based between his home studio at Stryx, Minerva Works, Fazeley Street and London, has had his work sold and published in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Amsterdam, as well as London.
And as we spoke, Alexander had just been approached by a textile designer in Hong Kong who had seen some of his work and wants to use it on a new range of handbags exclusive to then Liberty store in London. “Things couldn’t be going better,” said Alexander, “but I am very conscious not to take anything for granted.”
Born in Barnt Green, Alexander went to his local C of E school, St Andrew’s, before transferring to St John’s Bromsgrove and then sixth form at Bromsgrove School. He did a foundation in art and design at Bournville College before getting his degree in Fine Art and Design at Bath University.
He recalls: “When you leave uni, there are a lot of you graduating at the same time with degrees, so getting the job you want is really difficult. I was fortunate that I sold a piece of my work from my end of year show to a luxury hotel in Bath and that gave me the impetus to think I could make a career out of my art and move forward with my work.”
Alexander did lots of research to find out his best route to progress as an artist and found the Prince’s Trust, which he says “changed my life”. He put forward a detailed business plan to the Trust, impressed at the subsequent interviews and won the funding and support he needed.
“The Trust has given me the belief and the opportunity to have my own business,” he says. “They helped me to get clients in New York, Miami and Istanbul and many other places around the world, as well as here at home.” Alexander’s modern and highly distinctive style developed from his Fine Art studies where he explored the role of art in therapy.
His unique works manipulate acrylics with the aim to take the viewer on a journey of finding the ordinary, extraordinary. His global and diverse clients include outdoor advertising giants Clear Channel and leading Kenyan hip-hop artist Octopizzio. He launched his online gallery and store to provide the opportunity for people to enjoy and purchase his work.
Recently he has also been working on a collaboration project with talented musicians from Birmingham Conservatoire. “They created a piece of music taking inspiration from my paintings. I then created a series of paintings from a piece of music that they created – it’s an on-going conversation,” explained Alexander.
Alexander’s works are created using lots of different materials from in and around the studio. No object is too unlikely to be used. “I’ve just started to paint with bricks,” he says. “I walk the streets and am always on the look-out for discarded objects, bits of glass, bricks whatever. I like using different objects and different surfaces. I don’t even use a brush.
“I use oils and acrylics and spray paint too. I usually go to the studio and start working at 2am in the morning. I find I can get creative when I’m there at that time.” As well as his work for the Liberty designs and a busy ongoing schedule of exhibitions, Alexander is also working on commissions for some new apartments.
He continues to have strong ties with the Prince’s Trust. “I still go to the Trust’s offices in Digbeth and I help by giving talks to people about how the Trust can help them.” Alexander also has work in the Trust’s store in London. “I have sold more than 30 pieces through the store,” he says. Despite being kept busy, he is wary of thinking he’s ‘made it’.
“I believe in keeping my feet firmly on the ground, come what may,” he says.