Urban Mixed Media Art by Denise Buisman Pilger
Discovering Montreal Through A New Set Of Eyes
Photo Credit: denisebuismanpilger.com
Every city exudes its own personality; qualities that are unique to itself. Montreal is a prime example of a city with a rich cultural makeup as well as it’s own distinctive feel to those experiencing it first-hand. Though the city’s essence is a complex one, even to it’s natives, there are certain experiences, parts of town, quirks, or even photographs that pinpoint the exact un-manufacturable nature that this city inhales and exhales on a daily basis. International artist Denise Buisman Pilger’s most recent project, Discoveries: Montréal, showcases the feel of Montreal in a way that’s accessible to art connoisseurs and Average Joes alike. The collection is the fruit of Pilger’s past two years of labor, coming together for a solo exhibition at the Viva Vida Art Gallery in Pointe Claire.
The concept of Pilger’s collection is stunningly simple: each borough making up the Island of Montreal is represented by it’s own respective mixed media panel. While the concept in and of itself seems quite straightforward, the medium used to produce the end result, as well as the carefully selected content of the pieces themselves are what allow this collection to strike a chord in the ongoing conversation between art and viewer. Upon first glance, the question that immediately comes to mind is “how did she make this?”. The foundations of each piece begin with digital photos that Denise snapped herself throughout her visits across the island’s 34 boroughs. She then singles out certain components of these photos, whether they be buildings or smaller scale details from a particular street, to include in the panel, onto which she transfers the images until they are all structured into one whimsical compilation of urban life in that borough. The panel is then polished off with strokes of colour here and there along with some details that Pilger paints into existence. This medley of artistic mediums allows for a visual experience that is both lifelike and surreal.
With the pieces being composed mainly of actual photographs, the realism in the buildings and monuments themselves make for a panel that seems as though it’s subject is simply a busy street corner. Yet, something sets these “photographs” apart from the depiction of Montreal that could be found in any given souvenir shop; the kind that pawns itself off to tourists looking to buy a little piece of somewhere in all it’s idealized, postcard splendor and write home about the shiny lights and big bustling city life. There are a few constituent elements that make this so; one being the composition of the panels. Photographs of major landmarks or of any buildings that could be found in the borough being portrayed are taken out of their usual context and brought together to make a bizarre scene of a corner that does not exist in reality. This, paired with the pockets of bright colours, whether it be a blue recycling bin or a rooftop painted red, among the black and white, add another dimension of intricacy to the pieces that really catch your eye. And, as with any piece of art, the touch that truly sets this collection apart is the overwhelming sense of personality that Pilger made sure to include in each and every panel.
In the case of Discoveries: Montréal, Pilger’s personal expression shines through in her incorporation of various eyesores or flaws in Montreal’s landscapes that only a true Montrealer would understand. With the city’s infamously shoddy infrastructure frustrating most civilians, the appearance of those beloved bright orange traffic cones and “under construction” road signs serves almost as a kind of inside joke between Pilger and Montreal. These, as well as recycling bins, garbage cans, and caution tape included here and there in certain panels create an image of Montreal that is perfectly imperfect; embracing the raw realistic features that draw the line between Postcard Montreal and Actual Montreal.
To be able to encapsulate the true beauty and vibrance of a complex city such as ours is a huge accomplishment on it’s own. Denise Buisman Pilger accomplished this in the span of two years without even being a Montreal native; a testament to her unbelievable talent and attention to detail. Discoveries: Montréal, if nothing else, is a compelling new chapter of an artistic career that I am more than excited to watch continue in whatever endeavors are to come. Check her out at http://www.denisebuismanpilger.com for upcoming shows and events.