Alexandria Coe’s ‘Lovers’ chronicles the pain and healing process of heartbreak
The artist and London Greek Street member’s latest book features more than 50 sketches created in response to a bygone relationship. Here, she explains how she draws out her feelings in charcoal
By Osman Can Yerebakan
Fresh from the Parco dei Sesi residency on the tiny Sicilian island of Pantelleria, Coe is now back in town. The artist is looking forward to catching up with friends ‘without any technology involved.’ Yet, since returning from her two-and-a-half week stay on the volcanic island near North Africa, she still remembers the Mediterranean sun sinking into the horizon over Tunisia every evening.
Parting ways with her former partner a year-and-a-half ago changed the course of Coe’s life quite suddenly. She’d already started making intimate drawings of nude couples near the end of her relationship, but the vulnerability of a break-up gave her the courage to follow that path. ‘Linguistics sometimes get in the way,’ she says, about her decision to channel her feelings with minimalistic drawings in charcoal.
Coe is ready to put her phone away to meet people in person, but at a time when yearning for a touch was a collective sentiment, the digital realm offered her a platform for self-expression. Once she began posting her work on Instagram, the drawings attracted more than 60,000 followers. Their embodiment of a tactile intimacy filled the gap caused by a sudden emotional distancing. ‘My work is about intangible feelings, but the process is tactile and instantaneous,’ she explains.
She thinks each image taps into another element of emotion. ‘Learning curve’ is her way of explaining every relationship, and ‘a new person may reflect a side of us that we don’t love [ourselves].’ The guilt of a break-up was eased by committing to poetically simple lines and penetrating juxtapositions. Fitting for an artist, she still prefers love in its every stage over running away from it to avoid the potential pain. ‘I wouldn’t have developed into the new person that I now am,’ she explains.
Flipping through the pages of her book today feels quite different for Coe. The most important take-away from her grieving process has been a self-discovery. ‘Every relationship is a mirror to ourselves to see the good and bad, or even feminine or masculine aspects.’ Her decision to focus on the body comes from her natural response to a feminine side. ‘Women are more connected to emotions through their bodies,’ she thinks. A particular drawing from Lovers shows a man hugging a woman from behind. The dynamic between two figures suggests support and codependence. After a moment of distress, comfort seems to come in his kiss, while her gaze is fixated on emptiness ahead. ‘I was holding the entire burden while feeling a need of support.’
Coe always drew, and after a degree in textiles, she returned to her initial passion to complete a Master’s degree in drawing. Magazines and brands occasionally tap her for collaborations, but Lovers is her most soulful work to date. ‘When something is really yours, it’s authentic,’ she says. A long period of commitment to her craft gave the artist the chance for a joyous closure, and finishing the book was an epiphany towards the next chapter.