Artist Alessia Camoirano Bruges shares the emotional depth and intensity that goes into creating her vibrant, expressive paintings. Alessia turns to art as a way of releasing emotion, by expelling thoughts and feelings onto a canvas to let go. It is her own form of therapy, which allows her to feel present and in tune with herself. Her pieces intend to challenge, initiate conversations and encourage acceptance around mental health, identity and body-image. She invites people to feel less alone with her art and accompanying lyrics.
Trauma does not define your identity, we’re more than that.
When was the first moment that you turned to art to release emotion?
I’ve been doing this since I was a child really; I come from quite a busy household so I had to find my own place to hide from the noise. My mum studied art so she taught me a lot, but I’ve always done it. What makes this more important to me is that I write lyrics with my art. I think the writing came first then the colours, but then I stopped doing that for a while. I started it again when I was in a park with a friend and decided to go and buy paint and a canvas. I said to her, ‘I will paint my soul, and I will paint your soul, and I will paint the soul of every person I meet – with colours’. And I would do this by associating each colour with an emotion or a thought.
When I was a child and I had a diary where I would write a colour and an emotion that went with it, and I would exchange this with a friend at the end of each week. I also remember seeing a psychologist when I was younger and they asked me to sign my name, and I did this as a little green block. They said ‘you can’t sign like that’ and I said, ‘yes I can, because I feel this colour represents me’.
Can you describe how it feels to create your art?
It’s complicated because everything happens inside, but for example, a man once said to me that I should be careful because I have a pretty face and someone might throw acid on my face. I got so angry and frustrated and it triggered something in me. I sat down and could feel a pressure in my chest; I started to associate each feeling and thought I was having with a colour. I knew I might forget the sensation, so I took a little bit of the colour which I mix to get the exact shade, and wrote down what the colour meant to me. It’s an automatic thing, from the way I put the colours down, to the way I start moving the brush, and I can’t be disturbed. It’s my moment where I can let go of emotion. It’s natural and stronger than me, begging for me to release it. I even broke a canvas once from the strength I was putting into the painting.
Does your work mainly come from feelings like anger and frustration?
It really depends on how I am feeling. When I had a relapse some of my work was darker, but when I started recovering, it became brighter. It’s interesting to look back at the two because they’re completely different. They’re also a product of what is going on around me.
There are some pieces that are more uplifting to me, so I might feel calmer; laughing, dancing, singing as I create – there’s always music on when I create. I love Lana Del Ray, I have her signature tattooed on my arm from when I met her! I also listen to Indie Italian music and House music. If I don’t have music I can’t paint.
‘The only experiences we universally share are death and life’
Do you view painting as a form of therapy?
Yes definitely. I wouldn’t call it art therapy, as I’m not a therapist, but this is something that has worked with me. And after so many years I have realised how much this benefits me. By doing these paintings I am able to let go; of not only emotion but thoughts and feelings, which has always been the main thing for me.
Once having released this emotion and completed a piece how do you feel?
Exhausted. Emotionally and physically drained. Sometimes a pain is lifted in my chest. I always have a hundred thoughts in my head but when I paint I am present. All I’m thinking about is the colour, the movement, and how certain thoughts are slowly fading away in an order, rather than going away like fireworks all at once.
Do you find it hard to part ways with a piece you’ve created?
Yes. In fact, I am thinking about rebranding everything and making only prints available – still having exhibitions to get my work out there, but my aim is not to sell the originals at this point. I see my art as a way of looking into myself. I see the pieces as something meaningful to own rather than something beautiful to own.
I would tell them it’s ok to cry and feel
Your work looks at mental health, well-being and identity, how do you find society’s view towards these things?
I think it depends on which country we’re talking about. As my experience in Italy is different to my experience in the U.K – and even my experience in Columbia. In the U.K there is still a lot of stigma – it’s less in comparison to Italy though. In Italy if you call someone Bipolar, it’s considered an insult. Italy lacks conversation around it, but I have found people in London to be understanding and supportive. I am not ashamed of it, and of telling people I go to therapy. I need to see a therapist because I care about myself. We live in a society where people judge each other; where we see ads telling us what to do, what to buy and news telling us that another person has been killed. And I think a lot of us, including myself, need help to deal with this.
Does your art look to raise awareness of mental health?
Yes, I like talking about it and sharing my own experiences with mental health through my art. There are people who can relate to it and I hope it helps them feel less alone.
Anxiety 1, Anxiety 2, Anxiety 3
Do you also intend to address gender stereotypes that surround being emotional?
Well this is the thing. I think we should all do what we want to do without hurting each other; cry if we want to cry, laugh if we want to laugh. I grew up mostly with boys and I’ve always seen how they tend to hide their emotions. I would tell them it’s ok to cry and feel. And on the other side there is this perception of women being too emotional and having too much emotion – but what is wrong with having emotions? And what is “too much”?
By doing these paintings I am able to let go
I’d love to ask you about a couple of your pieces – can you tell us about your piece “My body, their hands, their eyes” .
This piece is based on objectification. There have been many times where I’ve felt not enough; too fat, too skinny etc but “too” doesn’t exist – it was hard for me to tell my teenage self this though. So, this piece is about feeling like you’re being objectified whilst also wanting to be wanted. One is the extreme of another, and it’s hard to deal with both sides – and at the end of the day this is what we see with social media. One post is promoting body positivity and the other is saying, but you need to look like this.
Do you view social media as having a negative impact on self-image?
It has for me and this happened to me. I don’t follow any models or influencers on purpose. It’s taken me years to love and accept myself, so why do I need to see how other people look – it’s not going to do any good for me. The only reason I use social media is because I want to be connected to the art world because I struggle to go and meet people.
My Body, their hands, their eyes
Can you tell us about your piece ‘Radical acceptance’
‘The only experiences we universally share are death and life’
I think this is the truth. I’m very much into philosophy and although I am not religious, I have read a lot of religious books. I believe that we are all connected to each other by nature. However, when we talk about sharing something completely and deeply, it is life and death: the moment we are born and the moment we leave the world.
Your work also looks at identity, what does identity mean to you?
When I talk about it, it’s not just about who I am but it’s also about who I was, who I want to be, where I am going and the difference between my existence and my essence. One of the reasons why I started painting is because I was struggling to work out who I was. Through painting and lyrics, I was naturally able to keep track of how I was feeling. Also, we’re taught that we need to be one thing rather than lots of things at the same time and that we need to find our niche, but instead I realised I am made up of different things. Many things make me who I am and it’s about recognising that trauma does not define your identity, we’re more than that.
Is there anything we can look out for?
At the moment I am trying to rebrand and I will be updating my website. I am trying to collect everything I have written and translate it into Italian because I would like to publish a book in Italian. This will take some time so this is my main focus currently, as well as making my website English and Italian; I want more people in Italy to be talking about these things.
To view more of Alessia’s work: