Brisa Amir’s New Exhibit Showcases Her Explosive Collages

June 11, 2024

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By 

Elle Yap

A Body Draws, A Leaf Sprouts is renowned artist Brisa Amir’s newest exhibition at Artinformal Gallery in Makati. Showing from May 30 to June 27, the exhibit displays a series of mixed-media collages on canvas that combines acrylic paint, different types of specialty paper, and other types of pigments to create sprawling abstract ideas that pop out with dimensionality.

Amir’s pieces seek to redefine the self as they exist within the paradigm of the urban spaces they live in. She works with different tones to convey the idea of closeness in the city. For example, she explores the way that we are boxed into smallness due to the urban sprawl’s lack of space, and how she found freedom and vastness as she moved away from that congestion. 

The exhibit's crowds during opening night. Photo by Elle Yap.
The exhibit’s crowds during opening night. Photo by Elle Yap.
Some of the paintings in the exhibit. Photo by Elle Yap.
Some of the paintings in the exhibit. Photo by Elle Yap.
One of the corners of the exhibit with paintings in display. Photo by Elle Yap.
One of the corners of the exhibit with paintings in display. Photo by Elle Yap.

“An alienating and disconcerting experience for one so accustomed to compact spaces, her current canvases depict her plant-like form starting to crawl bashfully toward the total breadth of the material,” the exhibit write-up said. 

Reforming Life in the City

Brisa Amir’s A Body Draws, A Leaf Sprouts projects a sense of chaotic energy that reflects the feeling of finding new spaces to explore within one’s self. Her “study on vastness,” so to speak, allows her the opportunity to explode on the canvas in unique ways—like using her own body as a brush. 

“Kung napapansin mo may movement siya na ganyan, ‘tas ganon, tapos parang—eto, palm yung pinag-paint ko. Actually, gusto ko nang umabot sa point na yung body ko mismo yung pine-press ko against sa wall, pero feeling ko meron pa akong parang restraint,” she said. “Goal ko is to make movements or gestures ng brush gamit yung body ko.”

[If you can notice the movement, I used my palm to paint it. Actually, I want it to get to the point where I would be using my body to paint the canvas, but I still feel restrained against that. My goal is to make movements or gestures of the brush using my body.]

"Palm Energy 1-4" and "The Squatch Expands Life" by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Palm Energy 1-4” and “The Squatch Expands Life” by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.

She makes a point to portray vastness as ever expanding even within the space of a canvas. “Palm Energy 1-4,” for example, are four different paintings that were created and exhibited to come together as expansions of one another. It grants us a view of how one’s self can be explosively uncontrollable even within the barriers of a painting. 

Finding Our Own Piece of Self

The paintings stem from the idea of how one shapeshifts to fit better within the environment they exist in. In that sense, she spoke a lot about how the freedom of non-urban spaces influenced her, specifically her garden and the way that it allowed her to cultivate life in the process. 

The spirals and leaves as shown in "pag wari." Photo by Elle Yap.
The spirals and leaves as shown in “pag wari.” Photo by Elle Yap.
Close-up on one of the collages by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
Close-up on one of the collages by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
Close-up of the pop-up portion of "Blades in a Fresh Laundry." Photo by Elle Yap.
Close-up of the pop-up portion of “Blades in a Fresh Laundry.” Photo by Elle Yap.

“Mayroon akong feeling na maximalist yung ginawa ko ngayon, pero yung maximalist na gusto kong ipakita yung, parang overwhelmed ka lang sa society mo, sa sarili mo,” she said. 

“Tapos parang, I guess OK lang maging too much. Tapos yung mga ganong bagay may organic siyang shape, which is—garden siya. Mga ganong bagay. Na kahit na parang congested siya, in a way, parang whimsical yung itsura niya.”

[I feel like my work today is maximalist, but maximalist in the sense that I’m showing how overwhelming society feels to a person. From there, I guess it’s OK to be too much. And that too much-ness has an organic shape, which is a garden. Those kinds of ideas. Like, even if one feels congested, in a way it still looks whimsical.]

Vastness of Our Own Being

These paintings create this commentary on alienation that intently questions our view of alienation as a whole. Amir creates these spirals, leaves, hangers, and other images that linger on the boxes and boundaries of society. And yet they break through anyways, with the artist portraying these in whimsical, three-dimensional fashion where paintings just literally spill out of their canvas and onto the floor. 

The painting "Palakang Bukid." Photo by Elle Yap.
The painting “Palakang Bukid.” Photo by Elle Yap.
Two paintings by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
Two paintings by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
Works by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
Works by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
"The leaves shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity" by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.
“The leaves shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity” by Brisa Amir. Photo by Elle Yap.

Works like “pag wari” or “The leaves shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity” play around with this idea. Amir decorates the environment as a massive collage of paper leaves jutting out of an abstractly-painted canvas. She calls it “a terrarium,” as it attempts to break out of the borders of the canvas. It feels like the artworks are an outgrowth of the desire for freedom, to find more spaces to explore one’s self beyond the boundaries of modern society. 

A Body Draws, A Leaf Sprouts expresses Brisa Amir’s desire to live a flourishing life even in a world crammed with rules and ideas that prevent one to live to their full potential. She gives a voice for that feeling, and shows in her work how one can overcome to find the self in these situations.

Related reading: Brisa Amir explores the quiet resilience of foliage in collages

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