How Gianne Encarnacion traces the worlds within

The artist.

“Much like a land unexplored, the world inside ourselves breathes and buzzes with deep possibility,” writes Corinne Fernandez Garcia about Yes I’m Changing, a collection of ten paper cut-out works each in the form of a profile. These embodied intricate landscapes, dubbed ‘Headspaces’ by Gianne Encarnacion, feature flourishing networks of flora and foliage, and particular pools; each one is like a garden, tended to by tiny women donning identical scarves on their heads. In the past year, the artist and illustrator’s works have come to life as immersive dioramas, joining Cartellino for Xavier Art Fest 2023 with her Somatic Gardens, and she continues to embark on various projects, her distinct illustrations and artistic sensibilities finding new expressions through a variety of different mediums. But first:


What drew you to creating dioramas?

I’ve always loved cutting paper. I took art journaling seriously when I was in high school. But usually, I’d cut with scissors and not so much with a blade. Last year I started cutting paper with a blade and I wanted to get better, so I’d cut up “assets” of my illustrations to practice. This was the same time my series PlayHouse was coming out, and two of my friends suggested there was a way to combine the pieces and mount them like a tunnel book. From there, I’ve worked on “remixing” existing work I have and seeing which portions I can omit, so I can give a new depth and dimension to them.


How has your artistic journey and career developed since then?

It’s my first time delving into the “fine art” world, so I’ve been learning and refining my skills since my first diorama pieces and cut-out work. I think my journey has been a series of trials by fire, and I’ve only had the time now to be able to reassess, experiment, and refine my skills. The method by which I assemble my diorama work needs a lot of improvement, so I’ve shifted to mounting my cut illustrations on acrylic panels. But this year, my cuts have become more precise and I’m discovering ways to tidy them up, and even make them less digitally printed. I think what remained consistent throughout this year was my steadfast hold on my illustrations and paper. Every so often, I wish I just went for painting, but illustrations, print, and paper are the most honest direction I can take for my art.


Can you tell us about the scientific dimension of your works? 

I love learning. I think it’s rooted in the encyclopedias, almanacs, and children’s medical books my mom encouraged me to read when I was young. I think I find science interesting because it is comforting and offers safety. I’m fascinated by how science provides the “hows” and “whys” of things, tracing things to their origins and finding patterns and reflections in the world. More than the physiological healing, I like connecting science to abstract ideas (or drawing parallels to each other) to help with being less fearful when facing them. I think that’s why I’m particularly drawn to somatic therapy because you sink in your corporeal vessel and find grounding as you navigate through difficult emotions.  


How do you see the two distinctive ‘disciplines’ of art and science interact with one another?

The two disciplines are like yin and yang. They were never supposed to be at war with each other. They co-exist and they ground and inform each other. The reason I love science is because of the scientific illustrations I consumed growing up, and the reason I found direction in my art is because of science. Also, without the other, something collapses. Without science, the world can lose its grounded connectedness; without art, the world can just be boring! 


For this particular collection, what got you listening to ‘Yes I’m Changing’ on repeat?

Originally, I wanted to name the series “Headspaces”, but when I started listening to my Tame Impala playlist on a whim and it became the soundtrack in producing the show, Yes I’m Changing was the perfect title for it. I think it really aided with the whole survival, moving on, and healing intent I had for the series. It made the process much more meaningful and cathartic. 


Where did you draw the imagery for these works? 

When I was brainstorming for the show, I stumbled upon a poster I made last year for an event featuring a patterned head motif sequence. 

The main idea of the series is “neuroplasticity”.  The patterns I used were based on the original heads but with more scientific accuracy. I visualized how my head would look in different stages of it, seeing it as incubators or chambers. I consulted Frank H. Netter’s Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy and also my brother, who helped me figure out the structure/actual parts and how I can use them as metaphors. Then, I referenced my past work, specifically the flora. 


What are you up to next? 

I’m looking forward to pushing my work and seeing where I can go from here. I have tons of ideas sitting around and am just itching to have them exist on the tangible plane! I want to maintain the momentum I started this year. I also want to conquer more of my fears: my fear of big pieces, and maybe start on working on my first solo show, and making art books and fashion pieces. 

It’s been amazing working with different creatives and I would love to work with more in the coming year! As much as I love my solitude, I love collaborating with people, especially those who aren’t visual artists. It’s refreshing to see different perspectives and processes and how each one’s practice transforms the other. I also find it as a reminder that there’s a bigger world outside your head.


This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.


Yes I’m Changing ran from October 3 to November 5. 


About the artist:

Gianne Encarnacion is an artist and illustrator based in Manila, Philippines. Her illustrative body of work is ornate, tender, and an organized chaos. She is primarily inspired by her influences growing up: science, spirituality, fashion, and 2000’s technology.

Her art practice revolves around transforming her illustrations into tangible, multipurpose forms. She mainly works with paper and textiles.