Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The palpable quality of living angels is difficult to miss.
The eyes of encaustic painter Bridget Busutil are more translucent than one’s reflection in a pool of water. Her tool’s fire has impressed its memory onto their surface leaving your gaze lost, yet engaged within introductory conversation. Naturally, she is the living embodiment of her work.
Encaustic painting, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian form, consists of heated beeswax and damar crystals coupled with pigments. This formula is melted layer upon layer onto canvas and completed with a polishing. The combination allows for a unique aesthetic, providing a reminder of cultural expressive origins utilizing natural resources, exhausted patience, and boundless detail. Therefore encaustic painting requires nothing less than the basics--discipline, vision, and faith. The medium is extensive and possibly tedious (considering one’s finite mind), yet the results are true magic--exemplary of the artist’s journey.
“We are constantly going back and forth between the past and the future diminishing the value of the unique reality to live, the present.”
This organic and cultural alchemy is metaphorical to a pregnancy or a lifetime mirroring the excessive routine of discomfort and temporal behaviors. For artists, encaustic painting epitomizes “the work” having a weightier impact than the finished masterpiece; the vision propelling the art into that forceful connection-- the artistic psychosis. Or comparable to the film photographer developing negatives in a dark room, only to have an initial ideal shattered, released, or propelled simply by a blinking subject or unforeseen background “debris”. This is the ultimate spark within abstraction-- an unconventional medium demanding an enlightened scope-- allowing for a completed work to become a new and separate creation living within an unimagined vision. Inevitably, the observer is a part of this process.
“Through my work I am offering the discovery of several worlds packed up in layers as in my encaustic, a sort of journey of self-discovery, as well as discovery of 'the other' with the respect for cultural differences. The necessity is to succeed in viewing these differences as contributions to our own cultures and understand the wealth they have to offer.”
The alchemist was born in Vietnam to French and English parents and raised in Madagascar, where she received her early education. She traveled onward to the US to receive her BA in Studio Art, MA in French, and PhD in Comparative Literature and Art at the University of Rochester, in New York. Her first major exhibition was in Paris beginning her encaustic career’s over ten-year journey, exhibiting in Spain, the UK, and returning to the US, to display her work in Charleston, South Carolina and New York through the New York Foundation for the Arts and various other organizations and galleries. Her culturally eclectic background has directly influenced her chosen method. She has returned to Europe with her encaustics for recent exhibitions at Gallery Gaudi (2006) in Madrid, Spain; Trevisian Art (2006) in Florence Italy; and Gallery GORA (2003) in Montreal, Canada. Along with her exhibitions, she is currently a professor of art at Bilkent University in Turkey. Her life has been a legacy and an example to those preparing to embark on any journey.
“My place is as distant as the moon, and a long time ago I walked out of my heart.”
I met Bridget while in residence as a writer at Cat’Art in Ste. Colombe sur L’Hers in the summer of 2007. Her energy was curious to me; I was left somewhat speechless despite my usually excitable façade, emblazoned by her presence. She engages you effortlessly and you feel it is your responsibility as a projected creator of things to know her. Bridget welcomed me into her studio and allowed me to salivate over her creations. Her workspace was spacious with pans filled with caked-in wax on cold burners and her original colors spilling over onto two or three tables formed into a “U” shape, beholden to three windows that welcomed the light and dark of the Pyrenees. Fingertips felt like magnets against her paintings despite their fragile surface, presenting a soul. Several of her encaustics and acrylics lined the far wall, and others were hung on the make shift walls that protected her encaustic kitchen.
Upon viewing, it became clear that her paintings allow nature to speak from its own voice-- urgent and mystical-- along with statements against the depletion of solitude. A Buddhist, Bridget is a believer in peace and the nurturing of art and the artist. Shrouds and secrets are also a distinct pattern—multiple lean and engaged stems and silhouettes.
“Technically I wish to bridge the past to the present and show that there is a continuity in life experience that only artists are capable of showing.”
Her work reflects a mourning heart for purer and less regurgitated circumstances. She is the story within her work—nomadic, impish, and pure, simply. And, the vitality of her encaustics has founded an intuitive quality within her, guiding her to absorb one’s story prior to its owner. A new and lifelong friend, influence, and supporter-- the angel with burnt wings.
“…it was as if she were hovering in the air and might vanish, like a glimmering light that comes we know not whence, and goes we know not whither.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
I encourage you to step into her light.
*For more of her encaustics, please visit Bridget's website at www.busutil.com