With dispensations from a number of artists set up on the international stage, the Philippine world of art has long been confined to a shortsighted environment – until about a decade ago.
After 50 years passed, the Philippines began participating in gallery art events such as the 2015 Venice Biennale with the national pavilion, which uniquely attracted attention to the area which was held by the event and brought new enthusiasm to local artists to the limelight. We show ten contemporary Filipino artists that we must know.
In 2011, Ronald Ventura broke the record for best-selling Southeast Asian paintings at Sotheby’s Hong Kong when his graphite, oil and acrylic titled Grayground was marketed for $ 1.1 million. Ventura paintings and sculptures feature not a few layers of images and styles, symbols of various diverse national identities from the Philippines – a country which, throughout history, has been colonized by the United States, Spain and Japan. Ventura’s work embodies and illustrates the complexity of postcolonial habits through the alignment of Eastern and Western motifs, traditions and progress, high and low habits, the future and present.
Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan
Husbands and wives duo Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan emigrated to Australia in 2006 – an event that became an integral element of their artistic practice. Their work says about community, personal empirical, memory, and displacement, in addition to the emotional and psychological influences of migration. The Aquilizans often use customary objects that are significant as metaphors of “life experiences”. In 2006, they exhibited Project Belonging: In Transit at the Biennale of Sydney, created with traditional Balikbayan boxes used by Filipinos to deliver their goods to all the world, the installation raised the couple’s voyage to Australia. This work evolved into another Country Project: Address (2008), created from the contents of 140 Balikbayan boxes, each packed carefully and curated with personal merchandise. Since then Aquilizans has produced a number of works involving local communities, using donated materials and creating complex installations of important objects.
The themes of everyday urbanism and politics are most important for the work of multidisciplinary artist Mark Salvatus, who is also useful as among the founders of the local street art collection Pilipinas Street Plan and 98B Collaboratory. Taking inspiration from its urban landscape, popular habits and media, Salvatus reflects a contemporary experience, both in his home country, the Philippines and in the places he visits. Salvatus connects the cross-cultural similarity, as represented in Haiku (2013) – video projection of graffiti photographed by artists around its journey in all of Japan, New York, Australia and Indonesia. The video links people and unrelated habits to create global dialogue. In 2014, artists presented Latitudes at the Philippine Cultural Center – a series of three works that were plunged into socio-political issues surrounding land, air and water resources.
Unfamiliar objects are deconstructed beyond recognition in Gary-Ross Pastrana’s conceptual works to the point where they inherit new formats, significance, and functions. Pastrana is interested in the consequences of changing the body’s object, examining how the connotations change. Set Fire to Free (2002) explores whether an object can keep ‘things’ if it breaks. Pastrana destroyed a ladder, burned a portion of the remains and made a bird from the ashes. For Two Rings (2008), artists melt two of his mother’s rings and form them into sword-like objects to investigate whether physical transformation will process sentimentality or material value. Pastrana decided that monetary value would not be lost, but more significantly, their sentimental value increased with the joining of ring properties. Pastrana configures reality to reveal the truth of an object.
José Santos III
José Santos III has long challenged the perception of ‘everyday life’. In his early work, Santos described the hyper-realistic trompe l’oeil scenes and surreal surrealist compositions. Multimedia artists have developed a vague style, leaving their work exposed for interpretation. He continues to explore the charm of objects in an effort to uncover their history, while obscuring the audience’s perception of familiar. In hiding (2014), and an exhibition at the Pearl Lam Gallery, Santos showed off a new work showing everyday objects filled with new meanings. Ignored objects are often placed in the spotlight, positioned home to create new experiences. Santos awakens a new appreciation of hidden uses, showing us the extent to which we collect objects to be handed over in our daily lives.
Costantino Zicarelli is a self-proclaimed musician and graffiti artist whose works reflect the history of metal drones, black metal, and all rock n ‘roll. His works and exhibitions are not infrequently inspired by song lyrics, like his 2013 show in moonlit white Silverlens, bone-white, as bright as a snake, as calm as a throne. Explore the ‘dark side’ of pop habits, Zicarelli’s graphite gray image revealing skull images, dark woods, locks hanging on tangles, disco balls, crushed guitars, dead rock stars, and tattoo emblems. Artists state that the practice is not enough about being a groupie, and more or less about showing a side that is not quite chaotic from the industry. The 2014 exhibition of the Dust of Men was inspired by the work and aesthetics of the icon Stanley Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey. From sacrificial drawings to decay, this exhibition shows off the fragility of eternal human beings.
The founder of Black Artists in Asia – a group based in the Philippines that focuses on the practice of progressive social and political artistic – and the Green Papaya Art Project, Norberto Roldan discussed social, political and local customs. The list of texts, images, and objects that he discovered considers empirical daily life in the Philippines, in addition to the country’s historical housing and collective memory. Roldan planted an exclusive emphasis on historical objects and their capacity to maintain significance after they were cast and forgotten, questioning whether an object is inherently sentimental or specifically endowed with meaning. His list of books entitled In Search For Lost Time 1/2/3/4 (2010) was inspired by Hitler’s apartment in Berlin, which is said to be incompatible with the nature of the megalomaniac dictator. The work questions the ways in which objects describe who we areEarly Fatal History and Strategy (2011) was inspired by Jean Baudrillard’s essay entitled End of History and Meaning, where philosophers assumed that globalization was a dissolution of history and the collapse of progress. Every work shown in the closet is a collection of old objects, seeing the time made by a forgotten memory.
Louie Cordero’s multimedia works are rich in ornaments and not infrequently funny, combining indigenous traditions, Spanish Catholicism and American pop habits to express a long history of tension. The brightly colored composition is unique from the aesthetics of b-film horror films, heavy metal music, comics, folk tales, and street life, splashed with issues originating from the later period of colonial artists and Catholic upbringing. In the 2011 Singapore Biennale, Cordero presented a disturbing multimedia installation titled My We, inspired by the recent assassination of innocent people, singing Frank Sinatra songs My Way at bars in the Philippines. The installation exhibited not a few fiberglass figures that were stabbed in all of their bodies with damaged body elements. In the background, a video installation projected Sinatra’s fatal song to make a scary recreation of a horrific event.