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Curated Conversation: Ayla El- Moussa

This interview dives into artist Ayla El-Moussa's latest series collection titled "Prelude To Integration: The Seven Stages." This series of work emanates from a deep-seated fascination with alchemy, not only in its literal quest to transmute base metals into gold, but as a metaphorical exploration of enlightenment through its psychological dimensions.

Paloma Rodriguez
Paloma Rodriguez,
Apr 24, 2024
1 min read

Curated Conversation: Ayla El- Moussa

Paloma Rodriguez
Paloma Rodriguez,
Apr 24, 2024
1 min read

About the Artist:

Ayla El-Moussa,  combines photography, self-portraiture, film, and painting into a digital alchemy, encouraging viewers to explore the notions of form, nature, balance and the inner workings of the mind. Her work serves as a visual philosophy, merging the motion of waves, the vastness of landscapes, and self-portraits to redefine the artist-muse relationship; whether it is literal or abstracted, these foundational layers encapsulate the essence of her art, presenting it as both an exploration and a conversation between the creator and the observer. 

Based in southern California the artists studio sits as a little haven for creativity. In her space, each item from her camera, iPad, computer, to even a sawhorse table are essential to Ayla's artistic practice. Alongside these various modern instruments lie some more traditional artistic tools: such as paintbrushes, watercolor pencils, paints, and most notably,  her prized 24-carat gold and premium silver pigments. Central to her practice is the seamless integration and study of both modern and traditional artistic techniques. To Ayla, these items are not just supplies, but rather essential items that serve a very specific goal within the culmination of her craft.  Each tool then acts individually and intentionally. 

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Over the course of the past year, Ayla has refined her practice within the walls of her studio, guided by the constant, albeit silent, encouragement of her two cats. Her work has transversed various mediums. It is through this rich blend of mediums that we see an array of possibilities and topics explored as Ayla looks to unearth a new meaning behind not only her own physical form, but what it can mean in the context of  abstraction. 

Ayla herself being a common subject with her work stands as a study in contrast herself. Her long, dark brown hair frames her pale face, high arched brows set against her striking green-gray, kohl-lined eyes, reflecting a soft shyness and an undeniable assertiveness both at once. It’s this contrasted blend of physical traits that she weaves into her art, creating a striking yet balanced subject for the work. It’s through her form that she finds solace and strength: she sits as both the capturer and the captured, demonstrating the power behind “she” who stands both behind and in front of the camera. It is here that no limits are measured and no confines are imposed. Her work invites the viewer to reflect and uncover the boundless possibilities as she converges a myriad of landscape, portraits, drawing, and painting to create a cohesive composition that is both delicate and astute in balance through both form and color- every object and every carefully calculated. 


About the Series: Prelude To Integration - The Seven Stages.

Prelude To Integration: The Seven Stages is Ayla El-Moussa’s latest collection, featuring seven unique 1/1 artworks. Developed over several months, this series  includes Ayla's first integration of embellished works on paper. For the first time, Ayla will offer individually painted prints, each distinguished by color that serve as symbolic to the Seven Stages of Alchemy. These stages draw upon an ancient philosophy aimed at achieving spiritual enlightenment by metaphorically transforming base metals into gold. Historically, alchemy was the precursor to modern chemistry, primarily concerned with converting materials like copper and lead into precious metals such as gold and silver. Though initially a speculative idea about material conversion, over time it evolved into a philosophical metaphor for spiritual ascension.

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Ayla highlights this transformative state associated with each stage within the series, labeled No. 1-7 respectively. Merging several artistic techniques—from photography and pencil drawing to digital and physical painting—each artwork is accentuated with the application of exclusively 24-carat gold and premium silver pigments. Although presented in a digital format, 'The Seven' includes works on paper featuring a solitary female figure in monochrome. This stark contrast brilliantly highlights the colored symbol of each alchemical stage within the represented triangle. The inverted triangle symbolizes water within the practice of Alchemy. This collection emanates from a deep fascination with alchemy. From Calcination’s symbolic destruction of the ego to Coagulation’s transcendence of dualities, each piece invites the viewer into a reflective exploration of both personal and universal transformation.  

This series is the Prelude to Integration of Opposites, a body of works Ayla will continue expanding on over the course of the next year. Her first piece Opus 1 was acquired in a private sale in 2023 to a close friend to the artist for 8.5 eth and hangs framed in a custom hand made Italian frame, gilded with 24 carat gold leaf. 


The Interview: 

Paloma: How has your distinctive fusion of photography, digital art, and traditional painting evolved over time? Furthermore, could you elaborate on how each medium contributes to the narrative exploration of transformation and duality within your series?

Ayla:  I've always felt somewhat of an outlier, creating in a category of my own merit. I don't neatly fit into labels such as:  photographer, model, or painter. Yet, all these mediums become vehicles through which I express my narrative and create my work. People like to categorize you within a specific box or put a label on you, but I've never related to this ideal. You could say photography however is always a foundational layer in my work.  The concept of digital painting emerged during my Century Series when I sought to age and transform my images, aiming for a canvas-like effect. Procreate became a game-changer, particularly with the Painted Muse series, where I delved into studying the brushstrokes and lighting techniques of the old masters, digitally painting over my photographs. I have a vast library at my disposal, which I have been curating and immersing myself with over the last couple of years. Now, I'm enthusiastic about blending materials both digitally and physically


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Paloma: Your use of layering techniques in this series introduces a captivating depth to your artwork. Can you provide insights into the process of transitioning from digital editing to physical layering, and how this evolution impacts the overall visual narrative?

Ayla: During Opus 1, I began delving into physicals and perfecting this new area of practice for my work. This was a pivotal moment within my artist pursuit as I consistently look to refine as well as expand my practice.  To this point, research is and has always been a cornerstone to my artistic process, allowing me to amass a diverse array of techniques and interests for my creative arsenal. It was important for me to dive into the recognizable narrative of a nude figure in  nature juxtaposed with a surreal wave. Subsequently, I delved into the abstraction of the human form, as seen in the nude abstracts. Works like Painted Muse and Dem De La Mer allowed me to refine my digital painting skills and it's because of this that I now feel equipped to seamlessly blend these focus areas together within my work. The Seven series for me is the precursor to the Integration of Opposites. Through this work, I aim to slowly guide the viewers into the abstract, while pushing the boundaries and continuing to explore the elements I love – body,  mind and the waves of the ocean.  

Paloma: The concept of alchemical transformation is central to your new series. Can you share more about your fascination with alchemy?

Ayla: I studied alchemy during my Masters Degree and it has always been one of those concepts that fascinated me both psychological, and spiritual. At its core, it is all about transmuting the mundane into something noble. For example, you always hear that alchemy is about transforming base metals into“gold,” but this physical transformation also parallels it as a metaphor for personal growth. Psychologically, it reflects Carl Jung's individuation journey, while spiritually, it symbolizes the quest for unity between the material and spiritual realms. What is important to note is that each alchemical process is related to a specific color so as we progress down The Seven Stages,  each color therefore carries a specific physical and spiritual significance that can be understood both physically and spiritually. 

Screenshot 2024-04-22 at 11.51.20 AMPaloma: The incorporation of 24-carat gold paint pigment and silver in your work is quite striking. Apart from their alchemical symbolism, could you elaborate on the significance of using these noble metals and how they enhance the viewer's engagement with your art?

Ayla: Gold and silver are not only metals that have been on this planet for centuries but have been used when creating, wearing or worshiping the sacred. Beyond their material value, they carry symbolic weight, often associated with the sacred.  Together they represent opposing forces: the sun(gold) and the moon (silver), consciousness and the unconscious, masculine and feminine energies. The integration of these metals, or pigments, at the center of the inverted triangle symbolizes the harmonious balance and unity of opposites. It is also worth noting that the alchemical symbol for water is an inverted triangle offering a subtle connection to the broader themes of balance and transformation referenced within my work.

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Paloma: The journey from concept to final artwork seems both meticulous and deeply personal. How do you know when a piece is complete, and what does it feel like to share such an intimate part of yourself with the world?

Ayla: To me, a piece feels complete when I can no longer see myself within it, when it evolves into the embodiment of "Her" a muse distinct from “Ayla” the artist shaping the work. Lately, I’ve been moving away from depicting the full nude figure, opting instead to explore the abstracted fragments of the body; for now anyway. So, while perhaps nudity can emit a sense of vulnerability or intimacy, my aim is to move beyond mere physicality, delving into deeper layers of expression and meaning within my work as I continue my research and practice. This journey of exploration and discovery is just beginning. 



Series available exclusively with SuperRare