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Interview with July Best in Show Winner Yasmin Bussiere

Interview by Emma Gould

Rich, metallic textures are artist Yasmin Bussiere’s signature, and her work Illuminations is no exception. The eye-catching work of art that took home the Best In Show for July’s exhibit keeps the eye with intricate layers of parchment, oil, metallic paints, and pen. The mixed media work was inspired by Bussiere’s time teaching in China and has already sold and shipped to its new home in Baton Rogue, Louisiana!

Emma Gould from The Art League Gallery sat down with Yasmin to talk about her work, what inspires her, and her travels: 

Yasmin Bussiere with her best-in-show winning work, Illuminations

How did “Illuminations” come to be? What was the concept for this piece, and how has it evolved within your practice to make this work?

YB: “For this piece, fragments of landscape become progressively obscured with encroaching darkness in the Summer Palace of Beijing; I was working at a language center for adults in 2016. One of my students invited me to visit Summer Palace with her.  We arrived later in the afternoon and were able to stay until the sun set. We saw the transformation of the site, how the sun progressively set, casting shadows and different shades all around. That was the main motivation for creating this piece. 

That sounds incredible; did you have a reference photo for this piece, or was is purely based on the feeling of being there?

YB: “It was purely based on the feeling. If I had started taking photos, then I feel as if I’m not really looking at what’s in front of me. It was an amazing event to see the sun set over the whole palace. There were different garden areas, sculptures, all kinds of things!”

Detail of Illuminations by Yasmin Bussiere

I find the reference of memory as a form of documentation very interesting. Why do you work in the format that you do? Why is it important that the medium is acrylic or oil?

YB: “I work in mixed media: acrylics, metallic pens, metallic paints, and oil pastel. All of these mediums are chosen from having lived in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa. I came across a lot of parchments, edifices, and tombs that have engravings. What that means is that they’re adding and subtracting layers of material, which is what I also do. I create those layers with a scrape of the knife; I make shapes and forms that are reminiscent of what I’ve seen. I have seen so much art on parchment, and it’s inspired the road that I’m on with my work.”

I appreciate that your process comes directly from your lived experiences, could you tell me more?

YB: “Well, before we had Internet and phone camera access, we really focused on the moment⁠—the people, what you saw, the landscapes, the sights, smells, and sounds. I didn’t have a camera or phone to take a photo, which helped me concentrate on the moment as opposed to being distracted.”

Partitions by by Yasmin Bussiere

Right, like a longer attention span to details.

YB: “Correct! I wanted to see and feel a space as opposed to taking photos with my phone.”

How do you think about the spatial relation in your work? How do you carve out that space and time?

YB: “I originally started off by doing miniature paintings. It was very concentrated on a canvas that was 3×3 inches. For me, it was a question of working mostly in detail. The space had nothing to do with what I saw in front of me, but how it translated to this small square. With larger paintings, detail is harder to make intricate, otherwise I would sit there for years! What pushed me to do larger paintings was feedback from others telling me they thought my work was much bigger. If I showed someone documentation of my work, they would exclaim how large the painting must have been, when in reality it was only 3×3 inches.”

Illuminations by Yasmin Bussiere

From your documentation, I did think your piece was a [much larger] painting! 

YB: “Yes, and from people telling me to make my work larger, I went from 3×3 inches to 22×25 inches in a span of two months. It was drastic, but as I went bigger, I got into more shows too.”

It’s amusing how the shift in size can allow for more things to happen within and outside of the painting.

YB: “It really is… but you do give up something though. I usually go for more scratches and depth within my work because I work on harder surfaces, so this was a challenge for me.”

I can certainly see why people assume that your worker is at a larger scale; you talk about all these grand far away places and cinematic moments. I think others want to also experience a giant realm of being in that space with you.

YB: “Right! And I think that influence also came from places such as the Middle East. Artwork there is generally at a smaller size; there are a lot of miniatures, unlike Western art. So I think that impulse just came to me. When I started working on my miniatures, I was also in a very small studio space, so I think I also adapted to that too, haha!”

Of course! And lastly, what technical element you would consider the most important in your work?

YB: “I think medium is most important; with a combination of oil pastels, metallic paints, and pens, that is where my scraping derives from. If I just used one medium, then I don’t think that would happen within my paintings. For me, the adding and subtracting of layers is important—it’s like a foundation for a building block of an old civilization. I think of it as a layer. There are events that occur, then something drastic happens, whether it’s good or bad; there is something that is taken away, and there is something brought. So I’m building layers upon layers to create beautiful differences, similar to diverse cultural characteristics. So because of the medium, I’m able to scrape, which comes from me being exposed to so many places with such rich, long histories.”

About the Artist:

Yasmin Bussiere is an artist who has worked in many countries. She is now focusing entirely on her artwork and sharing them. After relocating to the U.S., she participated in a group exhibition at The Yellow Cardinal Gallery and showed her work at Java Java in Charlottesville, VA. She has taught in Saudi Arabia and China, led art workshops in Europe and sold handmade articles in France. She was a graphic designer for Le Petit Musee in Conakry, Guinea and helped Uzbek artists gain recognition with expats in Uzbekistan. She has an Interior Design Degree from the University of Illinois and a TEFL certificate obtained in France. She was also awarded a grant by Gruntvig (E.U.) to participate in an art workshop in Florence, Italy.

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