French contemporary artist Pierre Marie Brisson exhibits new works produced in his Cebu studio.
Written by Duffie Hufana Osental
Tagore said that you can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. The world’s waterways have long fascinated artists because of the mysteries they contain. The seas and oceans can signify many things to different artists, but for one artist, the seas hold stories of meaning and love.
French contemporary artist Pierre Marie Brisson (b. 1955) will be drawing from four decades of experience in an exhibit of new works that reflect his intense love affair with the seas and oceans. Entitled Vue de La Mer (View from the Sea) and opening on February 20, 2019 at Manila House, the exhibition is marked by his affinity for the colors, flora and fauna of the tropics. It also distinguishes the differing characteristics of tropical waters as the outcome of Brisson having established a studio in the south of Cebu, where he intends to spend half of each year. The works for Vue de La Mer were produced by Brisson in his Cebu studio.
Following in the Tradition of Abstraction Brisson grew up in Orléans in France, which, by his own admission, is far from the sea. A historic medieval city, Orléans is nevertheless bisected by the Loire river, which empties into the Atlantic. “Along the Loire, there are many castles,” recalls Brisson of the picturesque landscapes he was surrounded with in his youth. “They certainly helped to attract authors such as Jean de La Fontaine, Chateaubriand, Descartes, Balzac, Voltaire, Marcel Proust, George Sand, Victor Hugo. Growing up, we all read at least one of these authors’ classics. They all wrote at least one work on the Loire, its riches, its stories, and its hopes. That’s where I was born, grew up.”
The artist came of age during an exciting period in French visual art. Post-war tendencies gravitated towards the abstractions of the Art Informel and Tachisme movements. Sharing many characteristics with the American Abstract Expressionist movement, the abstractions were described by critic Michel Tapié as an homage to randomness and organic spontaneity.
Mortes in the South of France, in a small industrial building near the sea. The other is my boat in the Mediterranean. The last is a bamboo hut on a beach in Cebu.” “They are all three different, but I find myself there. These are the environments that move around me. It is not a story of decoration, nor of geography, but of freedom.
Freedom to think, freedom to observe the invisible, freedom to feel where the wind comes from, the sea wind.” The location of his studio in Cebu has been dubbed “Shama Beach” by Brisson, after the endangered aniniho (black whistler bird) found in the hinterlands of Alcoy, behind the studio.
New works and techniques from old inspirations while retaining Brisson’s allegiance to his colorist background, there are elements in his work that recall Juvenal Sanso’s textile design for Balenciaga in the Modernist era. “It brings me back to Orléans, a royal city, to the Loire, to the castles of the Loire and their ornaments, their tapestries, their hangings,” explains Brisson. “What you call ‘printed element’ is a damask—a monochrome silk fabric characterized by a brightness contrasted between the background and the pattern formed by weaving.”
“They are in my childhood memory and have been an element in my painting for a long time. I put the damask at the back of the composition, under layers of time, punctuated by the salty winds. When I place the damask at the front of the composition, it is to invert the scale of the subject as a detail magnified a thousand times. This is to show the real bottom, [which to me is] the sea.”
“Another graphic element that recurs in my paintings is the leaves and flowers of the acanthus, omnipresent in the ornamentation of all the French royal heritage.
The acanthus adorns the capitals of all the columns, appears on all the gates of castles. Acanthus is a nymph in mythology and a love of art in the language of flowers.”
Bastianelli further elaborates on Brisson’s technique with the acanthus: “Brisson’s acanthus is superimposed onto a matter painting background which, magnified a thousand times, would reveal an ecofact backdrop with fossils, eyewitnesses of evolution; conserved traces set into sedimentary rock.”
The underlying authority of Brisson’s practice lies in his remarkable usage of aesthetic to convey emotion. It thus becomes unnecessary to provide a message or statement—it is simply enough to view a painting and let emotion wash over you.
This is in keeping with the approach of the Impressionists, who did away with the studious pretensions of academic art in favor of emotive, spontaneous, and gestural practices. Pierre Marie Brisson builds upon that inheritance with an unbridled affair with the sea.