Talk with Carmen Brias and you’ll immediately be transported into an era of Manila much different from today.
The artist was born in the Philippine capital and spent the first 12 years or so of her life here before her family went to Madrid where her mother, Presidential Medal of Merit for Art and Culture awardee Betsy Westendorp, had opened an art school.
It doesn’t come as a surprise then that her works often involve subjects inspired by memories of her time here, such as the colorful jeepney, the rich vegetation that once were commonplace in the city, and simply the warmth of the locals she had grown to know as family.
“As an artist, my soul is Filipino. Most of the inspiration for my art comes from my childhood in Manila,” said Brias. “One of the most beautiful spots was located in front of Manila Bay. Our family used to live in an apartment at the Excelsior and we would rent a banca at sunset and cruise around the huts where the fishermen lived. There is such magical beauty in these places, the way the houses are built and stood on stilts over the water and how the fishermen lived. Always there is air going through these houses, and they looked fragile. But at the same time, they are strong like bamboo.”
Brias’ deep affiliation with the Philippines is clear with every story she shares and in her comeback exhibit “Color Path,” the intimate relationship between the two countries she calls home becomes more evident.
The balikbayan artist will show her latest paintings and sculpture at Altro Mondo Gallery, Greenbelt 5, Makati, on March 3.
Colors are imperative
“‘Color Path’ is the name of the exhibit because colors are imperative in my paintings, especially bright colors,” Brias says. “For me, color is as much of a language as music or form. Colors are born when the light of the sun penetrates the earth, so the color of green is made when the sky and the sun get together. I have been in the middle of colors all my life; they are a part of me.”
The theme of colors, she added, is her way of showing her love for the Philippines, a very “colorful” country.
“There is a lot of sense of humor here, too, which can also be found in my art,” Brias said. “I have been very lucky to be born and raised as a child here. At the same time, I also love Spain and would love for the Spaniards to know more about the Philippines. They are far away geographically but Spain and the Philippines have a past that has bound them together and both have influenced each other’s culture.”
Her last exhibit in Manila was a joint show with her mother in 2009. She has since experimented with new materials such as plastic, pigments, acrylics and even synthetic resin though Brias admitted that she had lately become more of a “purist,” preferring less elements to more.
“As artists, we sometimes have a destructive attitude toward art, and even to ourselves, which can manifest in ‘destroying’ work that is already finished,” Brias said.
Brias, who studied painting restoration at Artes Aplicadas a la Restauracion de Madrid, comes from a long generation of artists. The “Diccionario de Pinotres y Escultores Españoles” writes of her: “a fantastic ingenuism with a surrealistic inclination, an exuberance of color using firm drawing to recreate the reality that surrounds us.”
“Color Path” will be on view at Altro Mondo Gallery, 3/F, Greenbelt 5, Makati, until March 13.