For Amer Kobaslija, location is everything.
A self described “stranger,” Amer has lived and worked around the world, from his native Bosnia, throughout Europe, the United States and Japan. It is no wonder that since the beginning of his career, a sense of place has formed an outsized role in his approach to painting. As an artist who works exhaustively and in series, this means that his ultimate goal is to create a portrait of his environs, whether that be his graduate school studio, the verdant wetlands of central Florida, the Tsunami-ravaged desolation of Kesennuma, Japan, or most recently, the rarified locale of the Swiss Alps.
Since March 2022, Amer has been an artist in residence in the town of Brig, a small, historic village in the Lepotine Alps, the Upper Valais region of southern Switzerland. The Rhône cuts through this part of the country and Brig’s location on the river and proximity to the Simplon Pass leading to Italy, has meant prosperity for the town since the 13th century. Even so, surrounded by high peaks and with the 17th century Stockalper Schloss a prominent feature, Brig is a picturesque and fertile subject for Amer to work with. This is not his first time either - he was previously an artist in residence there in 2016, his stay culminating in a series of large paintings exploring the contrast between the mountains and town, viewed through changing weather and specific customs of the region. Now, six years later, he considers himself “still a stranger in Upper Valais. But the more time I spend here, the more I begin to understand." He is working on a series of portraits of the town again, however instead of the landscape, it is Brig’s residents who are his subjects. Through extensive studies and encounters, he is painting hoteliers, musicians, ethnologists, artists, guest workers and asylum seekers; cumulatively these portraits will be of more than the individuals themselves, part of a larger narrative of the history of the region and Amer’s personal connection to it.
The residency will culminate in an exhibition at the Kunstverein Oberwallis, housed in the Stockalper Schloss in Brig, opening August 13. Titled 30 + 9 Portraits, Oberwallis, it will feature thirty such paintings of the region's inhabitants, alongside nine fictional portraits of characters inspired by the region and its history. The exhibition will be on view through September 9, more information can be found here.