Now Showing: Alice Tye, USA IRL

The (fine) line between illustration and art is raised in a recent solo exhibition of works by the London illustrator Alice Tye. Questioning the perceived freedom that artists hold vs, say, the strict brief that the illustrator is understood to work to, Tye’s work finds inspiration in expected places, and suggests an openness of expression and artistic control that goes against this stereotype. USA IRL is showing now at Magma, Shorts Gardens.

Tye’s viewpoint and composition hints at days spent in front of a screen, gaining the familiar knowledge of America that many of us hold, via films. David Lynch is a clear inspiration, and it is LA in particular that makes an appearance; road trips through flat desert sand, shaggy palm trees and sea-blue skies all feature repeatedly. The well-known creepiness of Lynch is also played with, not a human in sight in the LA landscape that has quite obviously been formed largely by human activity. There is a tension in the air that hints at a momentary pause in activity before or after the main event.

The flatness of Tye’s work–also kind of Hockney in feel–creates an uncertain meeting point between reality and fiction. The illustrator has previously worked directly from film stills, but for this project she travelled to America (IRL) and has experienced first hand the colours, light and sense of atmosphere. That her previous exploration of film stills remains at play here creates an interesting dynamic, the viewer not fully sure if they’re witnessing the cliched imaginings of this place, or in fact a first hand narrative.

‘USA IRL’ is open now at Magma, Shorts Gardens