Their name is Djenaba, but you may know their as Damsel Elysium. Damsel is an experimental sound and visual artist, multi-instrumentalist + composer. The artist utilizes double bass, violin and original field recordings to explore alternative communication and connections with physical spaces and nature. The mission is to establish an expressive world that speech or writing could never transmute. As an experimental sound artist—and, it’s worth noting, one of London’s most sumptuously stylish dressers—Elysium has spent the past few years quietly crafting a boldly romantic universe all of their own. We introduce you to the mysterious dimension of Damsel Elysium.
Describe yourself as a visual artist in a few words. When was your first approach with tangible art?
As a visual artist I am a maximalist by nature. I love texture, the physical, the old and the natural. I have always used my hands to make things since as young as I could remember. I have only taken on my tangible art more seriously more recently as I reflect more on my child self and take comfort in it.
Everyone somewhere or another has been influenced by their childhood. Could you please walk us through your own progressing years? How was growing up for you? Was it certain for you what you were going to do growing up?
I wanted to do many things, be an astrophysicist, a painter, a dancer, violinist, florist....(the list goes on forever). I was easily influenced by everything, a huge daydreamer. Everything was exciting and terrifying and I soak up the world (and outer-space) like a microfibre cloth. After-School club was heaven as I'd spend the entire time making sculptures, drawing and doing anything that was physical. I was a lonely child but the playground was my canvas and story book. My family and teachers encouraged my creative vigour. Both my parents are artists, musicians, researchers; it was only natural that I followed them, and was so inspired by their unique worlds. The only thing that was certain was that I was (am) an explorer and documenter.
Your work encourages innovation and makes the knick-picking style a trend of its own. I wonder what kind of challenges you would have gone through when it came to approaching digital art as well?
I wouldn't call it nit-picking, but attention to detail is the way in which we can understand things fully. When I create, I take on a holistic approach. When one looks at the world, you can endlessly go deeper and deeper into the details and always find new things (quarks!) and see how they link together in an endless thread. That's what I'm trying to add to my own art, that it is never-ending, that there is always more to take from it. Of course having these ideas comes off as frivolous and expensive, and that's usually the challenge I face when making things especially in institutional art settings. How can I make and capture everything I'm trying to say without it being seen as too much? I've just come to accept I'm a maximalist. Maximalism is the opposite to modern colonialism and white-washing, so that's something I feel.
How is your personal philosophy manifested and interpreted in the artworks themselves?
Everything must be tactile or textured. Alternative communication. A communion with nature.
You’re both the creative and the business head of your company. How do you balance your time between the two?
It is no easy thing to balance. Almost always one suffers. I can’t do it alone, I’m very grateful for my friends, family, partner and community who help emotionally or physically or lend me their ear for me to walk through ideas or business opportunities. I'm learning everyday how to facilitate rest and anti-colonial practices but it's hard to rewrite what you've been taught. Grind culture and me being an autistic Capricorn is not a good mix, let's say. But I now see depression as my body calling for reset from the industry and a blank canvas to create from.
How do you see yourself growing and evolving in the future?
I have no concept of my future self. I am always changing and sometimes it can be a little confusing when it comes to long term goals. I’m here for whatever comes, as long as I grow with compassion and wisdom and can continue sharing art in whatever form it wants to take. I guess like how a young tree responds to the weathers and seasons and animals but always aims upward.
A letter to your future self. What would you write?
Be kind to yourself, don't take everything so seriously. Sleep, dream, eat, dance, bloom and give love always no matter what.