What is creativity? For Elyssa Sykes-Smith, a Sydney based artist focusing predominantly on site specific sculpture, it’s moments of clarity. Moments where she is able think clearly, leaving behind any negativity and focusing the energy that her hands generate at creating her figures.
“I like creating so much, I feel most grounded when I’m making artwork, particularly sculpture at the moment. That is when I get moments of clarity,” Elyssa said.
Entering her 2nd year out of art school, Elyssa finds herself adjusting to life as a young creative out in the real world.
“That’s been one of my biggest challenges last year, just being able to keep motivated and try to sort out a structure within a lack of structure,” she said.
Inspired by a good challenge, whether it’s structural or the limitations that she has to work with, she enjoys the challenges that really forces her mind to creative problem solve.
“I like the struggle and I like figuring out how to piece the puzzle together or making a new puzzle altogether,” she said.
“You have to work beyond your own comfort zone and that often inspires my creativity.”
Elyssa also finds herself inspired by people or interesting interactions and experiences that go beyond the regular day to day routine of life. And it is through her sculptures and creative expression she is able to connect with people.
“It’s really creatively energising. Energy is something that you need to recharge after it gets sucked away, a great connection or interaction with another person fills me up with so much energy,” she said.
Elyssa’s sculptures are generally based around people, exploring the human form and movement through sculptural figures as the most direct way of communicating with people.
“We are people and if we embody an idea in a figure of another sort and someone will come and experience my artwork, connects more quickly because you relate to things that are human,” she said.
Having that instinct of response, Elyssa strongly believes in working intuitively. Exploring a natural environment and tying the figures to a specific site after physically exploring an environment and reflecting on her response to that environment also comes out through her work.
“I look for an environment that jumps out me. It’s really about that human interaction and response to different environment and how others experience the same environment, but in different ways,” she said.
Elyssa describes her creative process as hands on with a touch of playfulness. Something as adults we tend to forget how to do.
“Play is really important, playing with materials, paints, relax and give yourself a bit of freedom. I think that’s when things often start to flow,” she said.
She has found playfulness as a good way to diffuse the stress and anxiety before installing one of her sculptures.
“My last installation we dressed up as surgeons and called it a ‘Sculpture operation’. It’s silly and fun but that felt creative itself,” she said.
Like most creatives, thinking too much creates a creative block and you stress out and end up shutting yourself out of your own mind.
“Keep it light and playful and things start to emerge and I think that is a good way to work,” she said.
For the past three years, Elyssa has been part of Sculptures by the Sea over at Bondi. During that process she has come to the realisation that the installation of her sculptures requires a collaborative effort.
“I never really thought of myself as much of a collaborator. Recently, last year particularly, I have come to terms and to accept that’s definitely how I work,” she said.
In the past three years, Elyssa has really explored timber, predominantly working with singular figures.
“It is easier, it comes down to, if you exist in isolation it’s easier and as soon as you get two people it gets complicated,” she said.
In her first year at Sculpture by the Sea she created a figure that appeared to be climbing a cliff.
The year after that she had an installation called, ‘Shared Weight’ where her figures appeared to be holding up a cliff.
With experience comes exploration of skills, of developing skills and exploring other avenues and branching out.
“This past year, I really wanted to play around with groups of figures and larger installations,” she said.
Elyssa has turned to Pozible and launched her crowdfunding campaign to support her next sculptural project, ‘The Tempest’ as part of a sculpture exhibition in Cottesloe, in Western Australia.
A lot of the work that Elyssa creates, she does not have the hope of ever selling.
“It’s constant struggle thinking about how you are going to finance your life,” she said. “What consoles me about crowdfunding, is that you are not bluntly asking for money, it’s an exchange.”
Elyssa has though long and hard about what sorts of rewards should be on offer to the community who are supporting her.
“I wanted to offer a variety of rewards, there are some artworks, sculptures of varying sizes, as well as drawings,” she said.
There are also interactive rewards that are artistic based, where she would sculpt the hands of supporters on pieces of fragmented timber.
She is also offering experienced based rewards, if you are not interesting in buying an artwork.
“You can come and visit me in the studio and see the work in progress or you can have a hand on art tuition session,” she said.
Since Elyssa loves picnics, you can support her work and choose to attend a picnic, where participants will get the opportunity to life draw a model that the artist will provide.
Elyssa is 11 days away from ending her campaign with crowdfunding platform Pozible. Currently, she is sitting at $3,650 in support pledges. Her target is $5,000.
If you are feeling generous, help Elyssa raise the funds to get her and her three sculptural figures to Western Australia.
You can see her work later this year as part of the sculpture exhibition in Katoomba, with her artwork titled, ‘The Canopy of Thoughts,’ which explores the chaos of thoughts and ideas and self-doubt.
You can also see Elyssa walking through the city bare footed connecting with the environment, feel free to say hello. Who knows you might provide her with the energy that inspires her next sculptural project.