Meet the highly original noiamreiss, honouring the art of braiding and Afro hair through futuristic illustrations
The Birmingham-based artist and illustrator celebrates the precision, dexterity and technique that goes into hair braiding.
- Jyni Ong
- 4 September 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
The art work titled Sixteen Hours is particularly memorable to its maker because it is “literally exactly how I imagined it to look,” the artist known as noiamreiss tells us. Based in his home town of Birmingham, the name noiamreiss started out as an inside joke “because basically” he tells us, “it’s a correction for how my name is properly spelt.” Split up, the moniker can be read as ‘No I am Reiss’, something he had to correct many times growing up as his name was spelt incorrectly. The name is just another way for him to say exactly that and when he saw it for the first time as one word, a light bulb moment went off, “so I just go by that now,” he says.
He recalls a childhood spent drawing family members in sketchbooks and redrawing TV characters from shows he liked. “I didn’t have a home computer,” he says, “but there was a scheme where each family could get a desktop computer if they didn’t have one.” Every child in Years 5 and 6 at the time was granted access to technology they didn’t have before, and for noiamreiss, it “changed my life”; remembering how he was “obsessed with drawing on the computer and animating stories in MS paint.” And later on, when he got an iPod touch for his birthday, he would carry round the device as a portable drawing pad of sorts, documenting anything that piqued his interest along the way.
Eventually, this led him to study illustration at London’s Camberwell College of Arts. Previously to his degree, most of his creative learnings had come from the internet and books, but at university, he could develop his own style and take full ownership of his work. Since then, the learning hasn’t stopped and noiamreiss has continued to evolve his practice to culminate in the highly original work it is today. Combining the analogue and digital, noiamreiss’ work starts out as tangible drawings using pen and paper, with colour added digitally.
This leads us back to the aforementioned Sixteen Hours, which is how this illustration is created, an evocative artwork inspired by several YouTube and Instagram videos of braiding hair. “Braiding is an art itself!” he says on the topic, and in this way, noiamreiss’ work centres on themes of Afro hair supported by futuristic designs. “I always highlight the same features in my work,” he goes on, “shoulders, hands, eyes, lips and obviously hair!” an example of such. The work is not just about the formal qualities of these features however, but also the emotional relationship between hair and the person. He crafts a unique world through each illustration; colour, technique, composition and texture colliding in vividly dense portraits like we’ve never seen before.
“The precision, dexterity and technique it takes to do a single braid is impressive,” continues noiamress on Sixteen Hours. Grounded in research brimming with rich Black heritage, the illustration exemplifies the magnificence that is hair braiding. “I wanted Sixteen Hours to look like a sort of ceremony, I wanted people to see the preparation before the finished hairstyle.” His work prior to this usually showed hair in its finished glory, so as an alternative, Sixteen Hours acts as a behind the scenes insight into the process.
In other work, noiamreiss has collaborated with Jasmine Amanda, creator of fashion brand Wata. Making hand dyed garments that reflect her Haitian roots while exploring the African diaspora’s relationship with water, noiamreiss and Jasmine worked together on a collection titled Paradise Architects. Together, they agreed on a concept which have a “bioluminescent” feel which sparked the artist to consider how at one point, we could all be living underwater.
It’s an aquatic concept he hopes to further explore in the future, like “Will we have wifi? Will technology be waterproof?” As for other future plans, he hopes to explore animation further and experiment with other artistic media. We can also hope for a book all about Braidology where noiamreiss is interested in working with prosthetics, body modification and of course, braids.
GalleryCopyright © noiamreiss, 2020
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.