Monday, February 27, 2017

A Look Back at Art Fair Philippines

Last February 16 to 19, Art Fair Philippines has once again colored the concrete alleys of the Link parking lot. 

Peppered with paintings and artworks in every corner from the metro’s top galleries, the carpark was a vivid display of what the Philippine art scene had to offer. Bright, bustling, filled to the brim and a little chaotic. 

Among the slew of galleries, Vinyl on Vinyl had a booth at the shoulder of the 6th floor. These were just some of the highlights:

Street artist, Dr. Karayom’s eccentric display was a hard one to miss, with two
massive peculiar creatures set against a screaming yellow backdrop with the words ‘Gusto ko ng tinapay’ bannered across and a piece of loaf nestled in between them. But despite the display’s comedy and quirk, underneath it lay a deeper meaning. Based on a bread from Quezon called Pinagong, which is an anagram for Panginoon, the piece was a social commentary on man’s relationship with God and our tendencies to place ourselves on a pedestal higher than Him. Nanay, tatay, gusto ko ng tinapay. Ate, kuya, gusto ko ng kape… On the other hand, the two creatures, with hands at the ready to play the familiar Filipino nursery rhyme, was a representation of man’s insatiable thirst for more; how bread, how faith, how God, never seems to be quite enough anymore.

At the corner of the booth, bursting through a crack in the ceiling was a pair of legs dangling from the waist down. Plenty ominous, yet strangely alluring, one can’t help but take a closer look. Dennis Bato’s piece was one with a dark narrative behind it. ‘Paglutang’ is a visual depiction of the light-headed feeling of depression, much like a man floating up into a dark and sinister cloud.

Moving on from the dark and the sinister to the comfort of a familiar memory, Pinky Urmaza brought a hint of disheveled nostalgia with her mixed media collages. Inspired by childhood memories and remnants of a life in hindsight, Urmaza burned, tore, and marked her way into breathing new life into objects once lost and discarded.

On the other end of the booth, the faint sound of music finds its way to curious ears. The source: a small television prompted on corner of the floor, showing a video of a record being painted by a man and his record player. The culprit: Gerry Tan. Armed with a bottle of paint, Tan maneuvers the pigments as the record spins on the player. The evidence hung on the wall. Nine records, all distinct from each other, rings of bright colors melting into each layer, showing that music can also be a feast for the eyes.

Renz Bautista on the other hand, surpasses his own demise in his ‘Last Masterpiece’. The 72-piece behemoth was made in the span of three months, with each piece done in a day. Each block display’s Bautista’s trademark: layers of color, texture, pattern and graphic elements melded together with realistic forms to create a chaotic fluidity. 

Speaking of behemoths, nothing gets quite as big as a collaboration between Manuel Ocampo and Jigger Cruz. The two juggernauts come together to create two pieces that are larger than life, pieces that melds together two generations and mixes the best of both styles.

Miguel Borja once again weaves his brushes to create a textured abstracted whiplash of paint and color. Inspired by what he found after mixing a few hues in his mixing palette, what came out were magnetic figures formed in pigment.

It can be said that all good things come in threes, and Reen Barrera’s ‘Oh la la’ pieces are no exception. Three dolls, meticulously handcrafted and carved from wood, rest on a shelf above three paintings, one to accompany each doll. Inspired by his father’s expression at points of either anger or amusement, ‘Oh la la’ is a colorful fantastical world with an imaginary set of genderless beings. 

These were just some of the highlights from what was a successful run at this year’s Art Fair Philippines. The Vinyl on Vinyl booth had everything from surreal sculptures to contemporary abstractions and featured 47 artists in total. A tough act to follow but a worthy undertaking for next year’s AFP.

Until then, see you at the gallery!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Values by Rai Cruz and Gabby Tiongson

The absence of meaning in art is a rare occurrence. A brush stroke is never empty, a shade hardly hollow. Behind the seemingly uncalculated curations is a strong undertow. 

Values are the muses that fuel the human drive and dictate the human creativity. It is the subconscious influence, the North Star that guides the process of an artist and, ultimately, the artist themselves. Art is a direct reflection of the things we hold dear, the things that matter to us, and, at times, the vanishing remnants of values of an era almost forgot, fossils of a value-centric ideal, both simultaneously disappearing and clawing to be remembered at the sprint of the present.

With a divine chaos of color and grit, reminiscent of both pop tart aesthetics and textured memories, Gabby Tiongson and Rai Cruz's "Values" goes back to basics and gets down to what really matters.

Ugly Truth by Chalk Zaldivar

The facade of politeness for the sake of false harmony is put under scrutiny in Chalk Zaldivar's latest series UGLY TRUTH. He presents a satirical take on the forbidden territories of insult and anger in a non-confrontational society such as ours. Sensitivity to negative comments is a common characteristic for humans. The use of niceties and to walk around eggshells to spare another's feeling has become an expectation, if not a requirement.

Criticizing the lack of straightforwardness and also to vent some of his personal frustrations and irritations, he employs exaggerated imagery. For instance, being fat or having overly active sweat glands turn into points of focus that the artist blows up in infinite proportions with the use of his signature style. To receive the full effect of his premise, he pairs each of the pieces equally witty and audacious titles. Taking the idea from stand-up comedians Louis CK, Bill Burr and Ricky Gervais, he exhibits a refreshingly candid and direct approach in expressing his grievances.

He includes a self-portrait to the series, in admittance of his participation in the ridiculousness of this truthfully egoistical habit. Highlighting his own flaws and insecurities, the artist doesn’t spare himself from being part of his own joke.

Zaldivar remains brave and unapologetic in the crassness and the deliberate lack of depth. In protest of people who are oblivious to their own shallowness, he presents the premise that perhaps it is okay to be so. And that it is good, if not even healthy, to release and admit the tension rather than internalize for the sake of political correctness.

Talking Dollars Dub Smash by David Griggs

TALKING DOLLARS DUB SMASH mixes iconography from Griggs’ fascination with the Wild West with Horror and with his own irrational thoughts. What we get is an eclectic yet democratic collection of paintings that seems to harness the pure primal element of painting. Griggs, being Australian by birth is talking in Dollars although he really should be talking in Kings. Being a direct ancestor of a British convict convicted of buggery in 1822 and sent to Van Diemen’s Land. Griggs uses what he calls “this irrelevant trivia of my origin” as a way to completely ignore “the current trends of making work about ones identity, I find it very silly” Although the fact of its mention can allow us to think that Griggs is indeed confronting his identity, or lack of his care towards it. Either way TALKING DOLLARS DUB SMASH gives us a glimpse into Griggs’ strange world where dub smashing to Hip Hop, painting cow skulls one day then painting penises the next does make one wonder.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

SOS by Renz Bautista

"It’s our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.” 
- Conan O’Brien

Best advice in knowing your own identity is fully exploring yourself, your style. This is Hard.

Unending battle on how to standout not only from other artist but also the struggle in creating the so-called “perfect” artwork is not effortless.


Masters become masters because they know and accept the fact that there is no such thing as “perfect” art. This made them real and human enough to make priceless pieces.

S.O.S., represents the endless re-planning and revisions of an artist to achieve an ideal piece. Inspired by the late performance artist Bas Jan Ader’s work about a piece of paper that almost tears off due to the continuous draw-erase repetition, all result of the unsatisfied feeling towards his (Bas Jan) work. This collection magnifies struggles of a young artist in discovering his own piece of “perfection”. Today, severely obsessive self is born.

I Wonder How You Are by Kelli Maeshiro

Traveling across multiple metropolitan cities, Kelli Maeshiro has met a variety of people, many who became friends. But as Kelli was constantly on the move, time and distance widened the proximity to the people she knew. She missed her relationships with the friends and acquaintances she used to see. The concept for I wonder how you are comes from the artist’s recollections of the people she has met along her travels but will never see again. In everyday moments away from home, Kelli found herself writing imaginary letters to the memories she had of people she once knew. She began each letter by asking “I wonder how you are?” to the memories she had of a specific individual. In those letters, Kelli discovered the most honest side of herself. The letters became a space of reflection where she could reminisce about the mistakes, regrets, and uncertainties in her relationships with people—past, present, and future.

The paintings in I wonder how you are capture the artist’s memories of the people to whom she writes. The layers of hazy color washes and hard outlines depict strong snapshots of quickly passing moments combined with her memories, grown misty with time. In this series, Kelli composed each letter and painting simultaneously, choosing images for the painting at the same time that she penned the letter. She added or subtracted elements to and from each painting by filtering it through her memories, aesthetics, and senses. Each painting in the series corresponds to unique objects or characteristics associated with the memories of that person, and the back of each painting contains Kelli’s unsent letter.

The basis of Kelli’s work relies on the reflection of personal experiences and relationships. She regrets missed opportunities to get to know someone, and as she grows older, has recognized the value of those missed opportunities. She thinks of her own work as sentimental. She believes that people are sentimental about the things or time they miss—these sentimental self-reflections are what her paintings address. The paintings in this series can be read as soft and hazy, like distant memories. We recreate memories as we remember them in the present, and may think of them differently in the future. In our memories, we forget parts of what really happened, and stories become fragmented and then pieced back together with truth and a small dose of fiction. Kelli’s letters in this series are the same as these kinds of memories. They are parts and pieces of a person, infused with her thoughts and reflection, filtered from her perspective. In this way, her work offers an honestly raw and refreshing perspective on our relationship to memory.

Kara Hisatake, PhD, UC Santa Cruz Literature Department


Kelli Maeshiro is a Japanese-American born in Japan and raised in Hawai‘i. She worked in Tokyo, Boston, Portland, and currently resides in Manila and Honolulu. She earned her BA in studio art at Willamette University. I wonder how you are is her first solo show in Manila. She has previously worked as an in-house marketing/magazine designer/photographer, and the combination of magazine, design, and photography experience has influenced her current work.

Cryptoentomology by Tano Panaligan

A legend of an epidemic when people discover an ancient book about insects. Little did they know the book was of ability of insects in destroying humans. And in all faiths of mankind, people experimented till all was lost by their own hands. 

Heed the whirring noise of the distant swarm, an epidemic is signaling its return. 

The city has been drowned in the sound of a million buzzing wings singing a brooding, discordant hymn as hexapods march their way out of dilapidated buildings to lurk into every disquiet avenue. All the districts, streets and parks that once radiated life are now shrouded in an eerie sense of decay. Everything has fallen into disrepair. 

Disoriented ants creep out of fractured asphalt roads, almost mimicking blood oozing out of the crevices. Blank-eyed Cicadas blurt out their cacophonous songs as they witness the self-disemboweling dance of a thousand mutant bees buzzing around a fluctuating lamppost. The swarm is back; they are never leaving.