Kayla Buium always knew she wanted to pursue a career in art. Her first ventures as an artist began at a young age, which involved taking commissions from friends at school. “I remember in second grade we used to use pencil ‘tips’ as currency. I would make flash pages of drawings and charge kids different ‘tip prices’ for the drawings,” says Kayla. “During recess I was always busy trying to keep up with commissions. Not much has changed since then.”
Kayla now holds a degree in visual arts and presents a diverse portfolio that delves into sculpture, painting, street signage and illustration. “My life is often very cinematic,” says Kayla. “So I end up philosophising mundane things like going to the laundromat or meeting new people.” These small moments are what Kayla finds the most inspiring; in order to document what she sees, her process involves intertwining an essence of humour with a fast-paced method of note-taking and sketching. “In these moments I’d get a flash of an image in my head and I’d have to open up my sketchbook and do a quick drawing so I wouldn’t forget,” Kayla tells It’s Nice That. “The scenes are usually based on cool retro bathrooms, laundromats or bars that I would stumble into. It’s neat looking back at each work because I could name which country and which cafe I sat down in when making them.”
Around two years ago, Kayla developed a distinctive character that would continue to form the premises of her work. This character is called Nuknuk: it’s part of a “species that parodies the human race,” she explains. Roused by her own insecurities and view of the world, these creatures present an observation of daily struggles, concerns and obsessions — which go hand-in-hand with her experiences at the gym. “I was so fascinated by these big burly men who would go [to the gym] every day to improve their body like it was some sort of medallion, like fashion, and not for health. So I made these creatures that did the same thing, except their boobs would get saggier and their stomachs would get fatter instead of muscular,” Kayla says. “I chose their bodies to look this way based on my own insecurities. I always thought that my boobs were too saggy and my nose was too big, so I figured if I drew a character that over exaggerated these features I couldn’t be ugly in comparison. It actually really helped. Now they have evolved as a vessel to express my own ideas and thoughts on the world.”
These characters are placed in familiar settings where they are decorated with a conceptual theme. Anxieties, insecurities and time tend to be the most prominent throughout Kayla’s work, which has resulted in a highly expressive diary-like approach to image making. “I think this body of work has just turned into a diary of a young artist trying to figure out the world and where I fit into it. Each individual drawing I make has a rich history of its own,” says Kayla.
“An example of this history comes from the Disconnected Lovers painting. I have found that most peoples’ interpretation is a criticism on our generation living through our phones — which is fine, you can interpret my art however you like. But the intention was actually more positive. I had briefly fallen in love (whatever that means) when I was doing an artist residency in Berlin and I had to start backpacking soon after. It was rough — we’d try to hitchhike to each other when it was convenient, but it was rare. I remember sitting on my coach and texting him and it was almost like we were together in the same room again. I guess when it comes to long distance relationships, phones are kind of a lifesaver.”
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