Corroborating historical accounts from half a century ago depict the Philippine artworld as a picture of polarity. Rarely did any self-respecting artist intentionally straddle what was conservative and modernist, nor cross the line between what was distinctly Filipino and what was derisively dubbed derivative. The verbal and published tussles were passionate, the rivalry fierce. Even when such battlelines inevitably proved artificially narrow, they were defended nonetheless.
But a confluence of factors have since gnawed at these hallowed fences, paving the way for the plurality of expression now making up the face of Philippine visual art. More and more, it has increasingly become difficult to speak of artists as exclusively abstractionist or figurative, as solely painters or sculptors, nor rabid advocates or apolitical recluses.
Current expression consists of a variety of forms and persuasions and ever-growing hybrids. Like the sprawling landscape plotted by the exodus of Filipinos across geographic borders all over the globe, Filipino contemporary visual art traverses a pastiche of types, themes and philosophies. As this plurality remains to be translated into a genuinely non-hierarchical schema of art forms, today’s Filipino artists represent a curious mix of the technically restless, the frank and jaded, unrelenting social critics, and idealists.
Philippine art has been nurtured and simultaneously impacts a comparatively young culture. Its stirrings towards crafting its own modernity and identity span merely one century. As is true in other countries, the Philippines’ historical circumstances have deeply influenced its cultural make-up. Material indications of the subsequent influx of Malay, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, and West Asian migratory and trade encounters, further colored by incursions of brief colonial masters Great Britain and Japan, and the more drawn out ventures of Spain and the United States of America, continue to be acted on, resisted and assimilated into the Filipino psyche. Yet even as transnational mass media and the information technology revolution make inroads in the country, the past 30 years have additionally been witness to still another potent globalizing force.
Radically shaping the country’s demographic, sociological, economic, and cultural character has been a steady movement of Filipinos to and from the Philippines into various parts of Asia, America, Europe, and the Middle East—these among many places that have since enticed Filipinos with employment, and opportunities to reunite with migrated kin. In response, very deliberate efforts to rediscover and appropriate pre-colonial imagery, motifs and non-western belief systems have consciously been exerted by Filipinos living within and outside the Philippines as a means toward crafting identity in the midst of cultural displacement and rapidly changing environments. Such developments, occurring as they do alongside continuing bids to keep Filipino culture abreast of current internationalist trends, make up a visual map that is consequently, complex and multi-faceted, even nebulous at first glance.
The shape of contemporary Philippine art then consists of an interplaying spectra of forms and ideas, conjunctural meetings of tradition and modernity, and the coming together of weakening oppositions. Thus, the categories of painting, printmaking, sculpture, assemblage, installation, fiber art, clay art, video, photography, and performance, as described here, serve as mere tools for understanding rather than hard and fast classifications. These are working categories premised upon the fact that both artists and their works are hardly ever neatly tucked into any one type or stock, and are in most cases, in intermittent states of flux. And so the Philippine contemporary visual scene is complex not just because Filipinos work and live in the remotest and culturally diverse sites on the planet, but because art hereabouts operates within a culture that is dynamic, hybridized, and thus resistant to typecasts.
As one of the oldest colonially birthed art forms in the country, painting understandably comes as the most diverse in temperament and manifestation among contemporary art types. Scanning through Yasmin Almonte’s imposing female nudes juxtaposed against images of decaying fruit, to National Artist for Visual Art Arturo Luz’s geometricized renderings of Asian temples and still lifes, it is easy to surmise there exists a vast range of subjects, techniques and critical persuasions informing Philippine painting.
Artists from widely divergent backgrounds for one, have produced work that is distinctly folk and naif in disposition. Among these are Mauro Malang Santos, Manuel Baldemor, Antonio Austria, Norma Belleza, Angelito Antonio, and Mario Parial. A parallel strain of folk though comparatively more anthropomorphic images distinguish the paintings of crowded market, fiesta, peasant and fisherfolk scenes by Jose Blanco, Nemiranda, Tam Austria, Jeff Dizon, and Perdigon Vocalan, among other artists working in the Lakeshore towns of Rizal province. This nostalgic thread is also evident in the recurring images of peasant women from Anita Magsaysay-Ho as well as in Lino Severino’s and Rodolfo Ragodon’s efforts to capture images of colonial dwellings and churches in their distinctive long-running series of Pinoy archetypes.
A persisting draftsmanship and staunchly representational tradition also continues to find advocates among members of artist organizations such as the Saturday Group of Artists, Vacoop, GrUPo, and Agos-Kulay. The state of affairs is comparable, though in varying degrees, among regional organizations such as the Angono Artists Association, Bikol Artists Guild, Pahiyas Artists Group of Lucban, Art Association of Bacolod, Cebu Artists Incorporated, Iloilo-based Hubon Madia-as, Grupong Siquijodnon, Sabwag Art Group in Baybay, Leyte, and SocSarGen Arts Council in Mindanao. It is precisely from this stream that an elder generation of artists such as Ang Kiukok and Onib Olmedo have emerged, moving on to paint pained imaginings of a milieu crafted in primarily dark and acerbic visual languages. Their works, in turn, have at least partially, influenced post-social realists presently dominating the exhibition circuit. Meanwhile, a seminal post-impressionist hybrid stream is manifested in recent landscapes of generations of artists ranging from Alfredo Roces to Stella Rojas. Other waves of realists come represented by the works of Steve Santos, Araceli Dans, Romulo Galicano, Sofronio Mendoza, and Mona Santos. Evident in these artists’ productions are influences ranging from the magic realist literary tradition to the austerely magnified images of natural elements manifesting the Filipino’s still intimate ties to the physical environment.
A volatile political climate and the present global hankering for art charged with contemporary social themes has conferred distinction onto a loose gathering of artists baptized with the “social realist” moniker. Coming together amidst the political turmoil under Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law, the social realists who continue to produce work in the two-dimensional format are Adi Baens Santos, Antipas Delotavo, Papo de Asis, Jose Tence Ruiz, Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Leonilo Doloricon, Renato Habulan, and Lazaro Soriano. Working in parallel but in sympathy to this primarily Manila-based movement are Visayan artists such as Charlie Co, Nunelucio Alvarado and Norberto Roldan of the Black Artists of Asia. These artists now show alongside a younger generation of more pop-oriented but still uncompromisingly critical artists such as Emmanuel Garibay, Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, Karen Flores, Ferdie Montemayor, Noel Soler Cuizon, Arlene Villaver, Anthony Palomo, Neil Manalo, Jeho Bitancor, Mikel Parial, Dindo Llana, Melvin Culaba, Philip Badon, Dennis Miguel, among others.
A marked resurgence in figuration but one that is removed from the idyllic and is often diaristic and stylized, persists through a cross-generation of artists made up of Marcel Antonio, Kiko Escora, Justo Cascante III, Ronaldo Ruiz, Ferdinand Doctolero, Andres Barrioquinto, Reynold dela Cruz, Daniel Coquilla, Keiye Miranda, Lena Cobangbang, Eric Sausa, Mike Adrao, Eric Roca, Irma Lacorte, Maita Beltran, Plet Bolipata, Cristina Taniguchi, Rowena Bancod-Gaborni, Lydia Cruz, Jet Pascua, Norman Crisologo, Anna Mari Goy, Butch Payawal Reyes, Topel Lee, and Alfonso Mendoza, Jr., among many others. Parallel to this is a latent stream of indigenized surrealism evident in the works of Raul Lebajo, Fidel Sarmiento, John Santos III, Ronaldo Ventura, Elmer Oliva, Noli Aurillo, Nick Latoya, Jutze Pamate and those belonging to the Tacloban-based Surrealists At Home Organization.
Correspondingly, the recent past has also seen the rising popularity of starkly realist productions spiced with offbeat social commentary typified in the local and international art derby successes of young artist Alfredo Esquillo. Spurred on by stimulants such as the yearly competitions of art-inclined corporations like Pilipinas Shell, Metrobank, Philippine Long Distance Company, Remy Martin, and the Philip Morris Group of Companies, a steady crop of artists have locked unto the muralist aesthetic and the narrative potentials of figuration in delivering alternately subtle to overt statements on a canon of advocacies that have since become standard fare in the competition circuit. Yet another parallel development is the ascendance of a premeditated shock aesthetic prominent in the works of artists such as Jason Moss, Jose Legaspi, Alwin Reamillo, Ben Banez, and Manuel Ocampo. Ocampo’s employing of provocative images such as the swastika and torture vignettes has particularly warranted critical attention within the international circuit.
Deliberate efforts to disengage from the cultural impositions of both colonial and neocolonizing forces, have given birth to a defined movement triumphing pre-colonial images and the use of indigenous materials. Manifestations of this, in painting include the overtly ethnic references found in Santiago Bose’s stinging diatribes against the country’s colonial tutors, Brenda Fajardo’s multi-thematic tarot card and narrative epic series, Ana Fer’s large canvases situating maria clara and india amidst a spliced granary god, and Ivi Avellana Cosio’s ancient syllabary imputations on abstract color fields. A related strategic strain can be sensed in the ironic use of the colonial perspective to parody itself by pitting romantic and ethnic images of the Filipino against modern accoutrements. The strategy is generously employed in the works of Benedicto Cabrera, Leonard Aguinaldo and other Baguio Art Guild artists’ appropriations of thebulul and other traditional icons in a variety of conflict-laden contexts.
Symptomatically, during the last decade, questions on identity, whether of a sectarian, regional or national sort, have consistently emerged in the creative production represented in practically all major art competitions in the country, whether in the professional or student level. Evidence of this can be seen in the painstakingly detailed watercolors of Ib’n Saud Salipyasin Ahmad depicting traditional Muslim rituals, Edwin Jumalon’s stylized interpretations of Mindanaon motifs and icons, and province-specific themes taken up in the work of Iloilo-based artists making up the PANAN-AW group. Complementing these are Rico Abarco’s and Jerky Velasco’s unveiled bids for the safekeeping of yet uncolonized and unexploited natural environments, and the purposeful documentation of perceived-to-be vanishing traditions characteristic of the works of Norberto Monterona, Daisy Jamasali, Lea Padilla, and Nonoy Arevalo.
Amidst all this reflexive activity is a resilient conceptual movement made up of some three generations of artists primarily trained at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts in Diliman. Working in a variety of creative languages spanning drawing to performance, this informal association has produced a sizable body of multi-dimensional work that is purposely unencumbered by the need for narrative and manifest sentiment. Among the painters in this retinue are Gerardo Tan, Francesca Enriquez, Elaine Roberto Navas, Pardo de Leon, Popo San Pascual, RM de Leon, Jonathan Olazo, Jet Melencio, Bernardo Pacquing, Joy Melencio, Juni Salvador, Ronald Achachoso, Gemo Tapales, Jojo Serrano, Waling Gorospe, Karissa Villa, Kalila Aguilos, Trina Valenzuela, Geraldine Javier, Yasmin Sison, Angel Ulama, Wire Tuazon, Aba Dalena, Sherwin Coronado, Mariano Ching, Jonathan Ching, Jayson Oliveria, Kurt Gloria, Miko Sandejas, Jucar Raquepo, Louie Cordero, Alfred Villaruel, Teta Limcangco, Mafe Baluyos, among others. Their works have sought to address a range of issues, and reveal themselves as visual treatises on matters related to perception, skepticism, and a slew of theoretical predicaments.
Straddling the conceptualist-representational divide with creative languages intentionally ambiguous and dexterous, are works at various junctures in the oeuvre of Danilo Dalena, Alan Rivera, Fernando Modesto, Lazaro Soriano, Mario Parial, Genara Banzon, Santiago Bose, and Pandy Aviado, among others. Along with an even younger generation of artists unselfconsciously weaving in and out of once thought-to-be impenetrable art philosophic cliques, they demonstrate the increasingly blurred lines between art that is didactic and that which is intentionally cerebral.
Still making up another fragment in this non-linear make-up of the art scene are the substantial number of unrelenting abstractionists whose works, even among themselves, make up their own representational- to non-objective, narrative- to formalist- spectrum. Among these artists are Romulo Olazo, Jerry Elizalde Navarro, Lamberto Hechanova , Lee Aguinaldo, Juvenal Sanso, Gus Albor, Lao Lianben, Norberto Carating, Phyllis Zaballero, Rock Drilon, Roy Veneracion, Susan Fetalvero-Roces, Soler Santos, Raul Piedra, Raul Isidro, Edwin Wilwayco, Allan Cosio, Eugene Jarque, Lex Calip, Ding Lacsamana, Florencio Concepcion, Benjie Cabangis, Glenn Bautista, Justin Nuyda, Alfredo Liongoren, Paeng de Jesus, Phillip Victor, Rene Robles, Prudencio Lamarroza, Maria Cruz, Carlos Gabuco, Danilo Garcia, Francisco Pellicer Viri, Felix Bacolor, Norman Sustiguer, Nanette Ma. Villanueva, Pep Manalang, Josie Lim Cruz, Ramon Acharuz, Jemina Cruz, Don Artamas, Joe Amora, and Fred Orig.
Renewed interest among artists engaging in collaborative work is yet another significant development in painting, and this is true as well in disciplines such as installation, video, and performance. The visually congruent murals of Sangggawa (made up of Mark Justiniani, Federico Sievert, Joy Mallari, Elmer Borlongan and previously Karen Flores) bring to mind the spontaneous interactions of the Saturday Group of Artists in the 70s as well as pop-ed materials produced by the early social realists. Sanggawa is one of the organizational offsprings of Salingpusa, a band of young artists that came together in the late 80s bent on producing socially relevant and irreverent work taking off from editorial art images. Apart from this, collaborative work of a decisively conceptual persuasion has also wielded a dramatic presence across disciplines, bringing together artists from the visual, literary, and performing arts in events hosted at a variety of sites ranging from museums, cafes, bars, malls, as well as intimate entertainment venues and private residential spaces.
Philippine printmaking, in its various manifestations, from the aquatint, collograph, rubbercut, woodcut, lithograph, serigraph, etching, to the latest servings of digitally generated images, makes a particularly compelling case for demonstrating that specific art forms are resilient in the midst of a variety of contravening factors. Historically hampered by waning market as well as professional interest among its practitioners, this art form presently finds itself at a crest in its continued search for audience and enduring advocates.
Even as technological developments in printing have transformed prints from merely tediously crafted replicating tools to fine art pieces, Filipino printmakers continue to grapple with persistent technical difficulties relating to the availability of materials and the penchant of printmakers’ for abandoning prints to pursue work in painting and other art forms supported by a wider public following. Despite these, artists such as Manuel Rodriguez, Sr. and sons Marcelino and Manuel Jr., Virgilio Aviado, Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi, Fil dela Cruz, Ojeng Jocano, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Romulo Olazo, Manuel Baldemor, Charito Bitanga, Florencio Concepcion, Roger San Miguel, Edgar Fernandez, Noell El Farol, Danny Sola, Rhoda Recto, Mario Parial, Ileana Lee, Leonilo Doloricon, Evelyn Collantes, Phyllis Zaballero, Susan Fetalvero-Roces, Benjie Torrado Cabrera, J. Elizalde Navarro, Boy Garovillo, Joel Mendez, Boy Delima, Jesus Flores, Cris Bayani, Ambie Abano, and Emerson Abraham, among others, have continued to produce work through the 90s, employing a variety of approaches from narrative to abstract, and from biographical to political, in an equally diverse range of printmaking media.
The diversity in visual languages employed by these printmakers encompasses the conscious appropriation of indigenous motifs and pre-colonial iconography present in the work of Fil de la Cruz, Virgilio Aviado, and Imelda Cajipe-Endaya to the primarily geometric abstractions of Romulo Olazo and Jesus Flores, and the macro images of Leonore R.S. Lim. Philippine prints produced in the last two decades have generally been associated with highly ornate and packed compositions with a strong bias for distinctly Philippine themes, the latter being particularly evident in realist strands represented by the works of Manuel Baldemor, Fil de la Cruz, and Leonilo Doloricon.
The last two decades have also witnessed the ascendance of the monoprint over practically all other printmaking modes. In relation to this and other parallel developments, technical and ethical issues have since surfaced around the apparent turning away of printmakers from the art form’s initial democratizing nature. These polemics only ensure that printmaking as a creative vehicle will remain responsive to changes in the peculiar conditions attending to local art production, interpretation and consumption.
Meanwhile, a humble resurgence of the print among young artists continues to heighten expectations that printmaking will continue to be a viable art form through the next millenium. Although still sparsely exhibited, the recent output of Mariano and Jonathan Ching, Mikel Parial, Pamela Yan, Rey Concepcion, Diwa de Leon, Yuan Mor’o Ocampo, Amiel Roldan, Butch Payawal Reyes, Kris Lanot Lacaba, and Jamel Obnamia have unarguably brightened prospects of local printmaking. While creating generally more personal and quirky productions vis-a-vis the work of earlier streams of Filipino printmakers, these artists infuse the scene with much needed energy and creative potential. On the other hand, new printmaking media by way of large digital-formats, high-resolution color prints, and xerography have widened the range of expression for a diverse group of artists who have taken on these innovations with much aplomb and experimental verve. Among these are Al Manrique, Benedicto Cabrera, Jose Tence Ruiz, Rosscapili, Neil Garcia, Ige Ramos, and other members of the International Designers Network Club Philippines such as Raymund Abustan, Mac Antonio, Peck Aquino, Archie Degamo, Jay Dureza, June Miranda, Benjie Nuval, Maniya Ongpauco, Rannie Ramacula, Kikoy Rapadas, Art Suarez and Nelson Viterbo.
Given the wariness of more established printmakers of such new media being validated among already canonized printmaking techniques, it remains to be seen whether succeeding technological innovations parallel in significance to the development of paper-making in the 70s, coupled with a growing appreciation of printmaking among non-Manila based artists (this, in no uncertain terms owing to the string of regional workshops conducted by the Printmakers Association of the Philippines) will be able to sustain current interest in print as an art form.
Mixed Media, Collage, Assemblage, and Fiber Art
Also palpable during the past two decades has been the increasing popularity of wall pieces crafted from composites of conventional and non-traditional art media. Among this development’s more important implications in relation to current production certainly includes a decisive departure from two-dimensionality. This is manifested in the way artists physically extend canvas, paper and other alternative supports by employing elements that literally jut out onto a third dimension and provide texture beyond the mere application of pigment on surface. Apparently, it has been as much an issue of freshly acquired tangibility as it is of a conscious broadening of the art material canon and the exploitation of meaning-carrying imported visual components.
With these adjunct materials ranging from found to deliberately fashioned three-dimensional objects, whether organic or industrial in origin, the wide range of work being done still manifests plurality in technique, theme and approach. The spectrum runs the gamut from the earthy constructions of Junyee to Roberto Chabet Rodriguez’ long-running engagement with collage.
Among the field’s proponents are: the bevy of artists making up the Baguio Arts Guild, the Visayas-based Pugaran and Atitipalo; Imelda Cajipe-Endaya and her seminal takes on recycled clothes, sawali, crocheted materials, and the taka; Yuan Mor’o Ocampo, Dave Tadong, Buddy Ching, Norman Tiotuico, Datu Arellano, and Bobby Nuestro with their potent incorporations of encrusted organic elements; Eddie Tabancura and his compositions of cement, pulp paper, broken crockery and industrial discards; Katti Sta. Ana’s biographical travelogue pieces and juxtaposed feminine icons; and, Norberto Roldan, James Haresco, Javy Villacin, Leo Abaya, Alan Valencia, and Pablo Biglang-awa with their dexterous manipulation of rural and urban curios and detritus.
Very recently, young artists with a clearly conceptual bent, among these, Len Familara, Gary-Ross Pastrana, Jay Ticar, Kreskin Sugay, Mon Amper, Ernest Concepcion, Alvin Zafra, and Michelle Madrasto, among others, have employed materials like paraffin, scabs, tar, gravel, asphalt, neon bulbs, broadsheets, industrial sealants, tints, and enamel in their visual discourses on meaning production.
Recent works in mixed media are likewise characterized by an aggressive experimentation with alternative painting surfaces, the subsequent results still remaining relatively planar in orientation though either textually or texturally enhanced. Examples of these include Lordy Rodriguez’s redrawing of cultural and geographical configurations on actual maps, Roderico Daroy’s overpainted movie billboards, Alvaro Jimenez’ nostalgic pieces on banana stalk, Don Barranco’s enamel drip paintings with acrylic glass elements, as well as Gabriel Dolor’s and Fred Orig’s assemblages on winnowing trays and mats. Equally diverse applications of the narrative potential of collage and assemblage are demonstrated in the work of artists such as Mario de Rivera and William Gaudinez. The appropriation of solid tactile materials has similarly afforded a virtual kinetic element to artists like Roberto Feleo, Dennis Ascalon and Noel Soler Cuizon, whose pieces reveal a distinct concern for interactivity between viewer and work. One unarguably noticeable sub-trend simultaneously running alongside the global penchant for identity-preoccupied art is the increasingly popular use of organic materials manifested in the works of artists from as far north in the Cordilleras to the southernmost communities of Mindanao. This visual affectation is associated with whole aggrupations of artists as well as relatively cocooning individuals. Apart from members of the Baguio Arts Guild, the more prominent adherents are found among students and teachers at the Philippine High School for the Arts, and the Palawan-based Kamarikutan, including itinerant Pinikpikan regulars, Joon Claudio, Nonoy Alcalde, Mike Tupas, and Diokno Pasilan.
Unarguably, the most marginalized among these non-traditional genres is textile or fiber art, an artistic medium unfortunately still subjected to the outdated but persisting craft-fine art dichotomy. Among its most visible advocates at present are Pacita Abad and Paz Abad Santos. Jointly featured in a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Abad’s trapunto narratives on expatriate experiences served as appropriate foil to Abad Santos’ dramatically-scaled abstract compositions inspired by indigenous and Muslim motifs and elements. Apart from Abad and Abad Santos, still another practicing fiber artist is Baguio-based Maela Jose whose dyed textile installations have successively been employed in ritual as well as performance contexts. Working in parallel and completely independent of these artists is the Iloilo-based Alfredo Provido and a bevy of individuals associated with the Cebuano group called Pusod. Provido’s adept transformation of the lowly garter into a semiotically fertile art medium makes another case for continued research into practicable materials. The same can be said of Pusod’s 1998 exhibition of transmuted pillows worked on by a slew of Visayan painters. Lilibeth Lao and Liddy Abes are yet two other hibernating artists previously working in textiles. Abes has since opted to shift her energies from designing tapestries to the reworking of ecclesiastical garment motifs, while Lao is steeped in cultural management work. Other artists who have had dalliances with fiber as art medium are Manuel Rodriguez Jr., Allan Cosio, Benjamin Ranada, Rogger Basco, Antonio Ventura, Manuel Zacaria, Venerando Cenizal, Joe Amora, Jess Flores, Angelo Melo, Clairelynn Uy, and Jose Cao.
Sculpture and Installation
Possibly among all mainstream art forms, sculpture has proven to be the most liberal in terms of assimilating innovations in material and technique. This has particularly been evident in the most recent exhibitions of the Society of Philippine Sculptors, the country’s largest caucus of artists engaged in the field. In these events, the range of works has consisted of pieces fashioned from the conventional–plaster, metal, stone, or wood–to deviants such as a bed of nails, a transported upland house and a makeshift light and sound device. While a sculptural tradition of the monumental and heroic persists, principally spawned by private or government commissions, the distinctions between sculpture and installation, between figurative and non-objective, and between narrative and conceptual, are incessantly being disputed and redrawn in these and other independently organized gatherings.
Consequently, any given collective affair among sculptors expectedly showcases the highly abstract alongside the unveiled nationalistic paean, interactive contraptions amidst aloof pedestal pieces, and the ethnic abreast the ultra-modern. The diversity of work makes any attempt at categorization appear awkward and imposed but a working framework is undertaken here to loosely group artists exhibiting associated visual languages in terms of materials employed, as well as artistic philosophy.
Working within a genre dubbed folk modern and primarily in traditional sculptural materials such as wood and stone, are the brothers Fred, Manuel, and Lito Baldemor. Along with artists such as Luis Ac-Ac, Ton Raymundo, Herminigildo Pineda, Ronel Roces, and Jose Giroy, they represent a stable romantic thread among sculptors carrying a torch for work portraying characters from local myth, excerpts of small-town tableau, and idealized images of Filipino heroes. Still working within the figurative framework but departing slightly from classic genre compositions are Solomon Saprid, Teofilo Catanyag, Charlie Mendoza, Paul Albert Quiano and Michael Cacnio. In contrast, artists such as Peter de Guzman, Baidy Mendoza, Sandra Torrijos, Julie Lluch and daughters Krista and Aba, Agnes Arellano, and Datu Arellano have employed figuration in a range of deeply personal and introspective pieces bearing influences ranging from stylized folk art to Eastern religious traditions.
Meanwhile, commonly working within the abstract spectrum are artists such as Abdulmari Imao, Ed Castrillo, Ramon Orlina, Imelda Pilapil, Claude Tayag, Allan Cosio, Lor Calma, Honrado Fernandez, Gus Albor, Joe Datuin, Pablo Mahinay, Roberto Robles, Conrado Mercado, Antonio Ramboyong, Charito Bitanga, Reginald Yuson, Claro Ramirez, Cipra Kamatoy, Alex de la Pena, and Nina Chanco Libatique. Their works represent all manner of hybrids of persuasions from clearly organic nature take-offs to industrial and hard-edge constructions.
Unlike painters who are generally trained to confront a relatively stable core of materials such as oil, tempera, and watercolor, today’s sculptors find themselves confronted with a gaggle of choices to work from. From the traditional modeling media of cast plaster, stone and wood–the menu of options has significantly expanded to encompass a range including fiberglass, wax, dolomite, white carbide stone, lignite, fossilized coal, raw marble dust, coral, wood glue, various resins and a host of material composites.
Although a number of sculptors have been known to move from one creative material to another with ease, interestingly, among other visual artists, sculptors seem to be the most territorial over their chosen medium, particularly if this happens to be scant or prohibitive to acquire. Consequently, the glass medium has been associated with only a handful of artists—Ramon Orlina, Imelda Pilapil, Noell El Farrol, Bobby Castillo, Ros Arcilla, and Chacha Garcia, even as Philippine wood varieties such as narra, molave, kamagong, ipil, and madre de cacao, among others, have been been subjected to multiple transformations by sculptors such as Jerry Elizalde Navarro, Inday Cadapan, Sandra Torrijos, Pablo Mahinay, Renato Rocha, Alex de la Pena, Paul Balan, Ulysses Veloso, Henri Eteve, Magdiwang Jardiniano, Claude Tayag, Willy Arsena, and Timoteo Jumayao. Bamboo, is one particular indigenous wood variety that has found its way into the oeuvre of a range of artists including Perry Mamaril, Nestor Vinluan, Gelo Espiritu, Edson Armenta, Edward Defensor, and Francisco Verano. Diverse plastic expressions in salvaged hardwood ranging from the ornate to the functional, on the other hand, are manifested in the works of Rey Paz Contreras, Jerusalino Araos, Clifford Espinosa, Jenny Cortes and other members of the guild, Salakai.
A parallel plurality in creative output utilizing metals such as bronze, iron, brass, steel, chrome, aluminum, copper wire, and polychrome, produced through a combination of casting, welding, and allied processes, is demonstrated in the work of Arturo Luz, Edgar Doctor, Ed Castrillo, Solomon Saprid, Lor Calma, Honrado Fernandez, Joe Datuin, Ral Arrogante, Antonio Ramboyong, Conrado Mercado and daughters Portia and Sigrid, Abdulmari Imao and sons Toym and Juan Sajiid De Leon Imao, Reginald Yuson, Ben-hur Villanueva, Charlie Mendoza, Michael Cacnio, Allan Cosio, Jerry Ty Navarro, Aster Tecson, Mulawin Abueva, Tito Sanchez, Jose Mendoza, Nina Chanco Libatique, Gus Albor, Cipra Kamatoy, Lino Severino, Bumbo Villanueva, Gil Sermeno, and Romeo Alcantara. Others such as Teofilo Catanyag, Ronel Roces, and Priscilliano Vicaldo, meanwhile have remained partial to fiberglass, even as Imelda Pilapil, Martin Genodepa, Roberto Robles, and Eduardo Olbes manifest a preference for stones ranging from adobe, marble, coral, alabaster, to jade.
Plaster and associated cast media such as marble, has likewise undergone the metamorphosis from mere intermediate modeling medium to pliant finishing material. It has since found itself in the midst of a renaissance of sorts with the alternately biographical and myth-laden pieces of artists such as Agnes Arellano, Datu Arellano, Reginald Yuson, Chie Cruz, and Peter de Guzman. The idiosyncratic soft sculpture pieces of Henri Cainglet, Alma Urduja Quinto and Steve de Leon, on the other hand, have succeeded in further broadening the discipline to accommodate their constructions of molded, sewn and collaged textile materials. Meanwhile, the increasing popularity of resin as a ductile medium is visibly disclosed in the works of Eng Chan, Renato Robles, Paul Quiano, Teta Capitulo, Jose Giroy, Dan Raralio, Nelson Ferraris, Peter de Guzman, Raymon Maliwat, and Lito Mondejar. Other sculptural media such as acriweld, papier mache, cement, glue, and foam have since been used by Frank Verano, Emil Mercado, and Diwa de Leon, among others. Pointedly defying this typology is National Artist Napoleon Abueva’s personal oeuvre with his, at turns allegorical, ideational, quirky and simultaneously pedagogic constructions spanning a wide range of materials.
Among the newest aggregations of elements making up the artist’s box of tricks, those coming under the mixed media-found object rubric most definitively challenge thought-to-be sacred classifications of art forms. Clearly demonstrating this are artists such as Reanne Augustin Estrada with her meticulously crafted hair-laced soap bars, Johanna Poethig and her made-over Barbie dolls, Lionel de Jesus with his cast plaster faces glued on wood totems, Gerry Leonardo and his resin-infused yet organic compositions, Maryrose Mendoza and her tongue-in-cheek object fabrications, and Johnny Alcazaren and his intentionally ambiguous laboratory-reminiscent bottled specimens and superfluous contraptions. The plurality of persuasions governing mixed media is further illustrated in the wide variety of work produced by Lamberto Hechanova, Pete Jimenez, Jardiniano Magdiwang, Ulysses Veloso, Butch Mabunga, Lubin Nepomuceno, and Mike Archivido, among others. The range extends through Gabriel Barredo’s gothic junk constructions, Elemento’s unorthodox musical instruments, to the pared down assembled pieces of Paco Santos. That the dividing line between conventional sculpture and installation has morphed into fuzzy boundaries is clearly due to the shared restiveness in terms of materials as well as art theory among such artists.
Initially posing an aggressive challenge to traditional sculptural conceptions of the definition of space and solidity of structure, installation as an art medium has similarly traversed the indigenous-techno-urban divide. Correspondingly, the work that has emerged within the past 20 years spans the gamut of the apathetically self-reflexive to the politically conceptual.
Gaining recognition in this medium are names such as Junyee, Roberto Feleo, Alan Rivera, Hermisanto, Reamillo and Juliet, Errol Marabiles, Gaston Damag, Edille Paras, Raymund Fernandez, Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Antonio Alunan Wenceslao, Kigao Rosimo, Lani Maestro, Agnes Arellano, Gerry Tan, Jose Tence Ruiz, Genara Banzon, Katya Guerrero, Katti Sta. Ana, Ringo Bunoan, Riza Manalo, Trek Valdizno, Nilo Ilarde, Bert Antonio, Rhonda Miranda, Juni Salvador, Sid Hildawa, Lena Cobangbang, Wire Tuazon, Terry Acebo Davis, Ann Wizer, Cirilo Domine and other artists behind the now defunct L.A.-based Filipino gallery, Puro Arte. Among other emerging artists are Corrine Ching, Mario Collantes, Jojo Cortado, Ikoy Ricio, Jose Beduya, Eia Ablaza, Mark Cosico, Arvin Viola, Asha Macam, Ernest Concepcion, Vernon Perez, Nicole Tirona, Paolo Raymundo, Khavn de la Cruz, and Paul Mondoc. Thematically, concerns that have found their way into Filipino installations include those that take on environmental degradation and urban decay, the recovery of indigenous traditions, cultural imperialism and its attendant othering strategies, involuntary disappearances, specific advocacies within the feminist agenda, the construction of images, and the diaspora experience, as well as a host of philosophical and intentionally personal musings, among many others.
The diversity of expression is also evident in the range of materials making up these productions, that is, as manifested in Feleo’s pinalakpak-myth constructions, Rosimo’s mound of snail shells, Ann Wizer’s odes to urban decadence via salvaged rubber tires, slippers, and synthetic chicken bone towers, Roberto Chabet’s bringing together of neon lights, found objects and painting, Tan’s shelf full of incandescent religious icons, Maestro’s slick video installations, and Bose’s millenarian altar.
Collaborative undertakings have also been a distinct development among installation artists. Among the most recent of these partnerships have been struck between Reamillo and Juliet, Freddie and Isabel Aquilizan, Sanggawa, the California-based Diwa Arts collective and those associated with Third Space Art Laboratory, the slew of artists which made up the touring store-cum-exhibition called Ang Delatang Pinoy, and the more recent University of the Philippines Vargas Museum exhibition dubbed Pinagpipistahan. Diwa Art Collective and Third Space Laboratory colluded in the much publicized Cultural Center of the Philippines-wide installation-performances christened Kaka-, an event which among other things, dramatically subverted the exhibition venue divide with it’s employing of bathrooms as art spaces. Both Ang Delatang Pinoy and Pinagpipistahan brought together even larger groups of artists producing stinging takes on a profusion of issues ranging from environmental abuse, petty bourgeois politics, haphazard globalization, and cultural imperialism. As in other art forms, installation has repeatedly demonstrated its versatility as an expressive vehicle, being neither inherently moralizing nor purely notional, as manifested in the range of aggrupations persisting in this medium.
In a similar vein the assimilative thrust in materials exploration evident in contemporary painting and sculpture also finds its counterpart in local clay art. Whether wheel-thrown or freehand, and often incorporating non-clay materials either used as molds or added visual elements, current output in the field is still largely dominated by functional objects even as a growing number of artists have increasingly sought to transcend clay’s traditional niche among the utilitarian and decorative.
With a mere two decades of activity behind contemporary clay art in the Philippines, it remains understandable that creative output in the medium continues to be limited among an extremely small circle of actively producing artists including Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn, Ugu Bigyan, Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, Nelfa Querubin, Alfredo Roces, Shoko Mafune, Benjie Belgica, Alan Cabalfin, Adi Mendoza, Carmela Laganse, Sammy Kilat, Ting Cristales and Nonoy Alob. Among these, the most visible exponents exhibition-wise and using regular pottery workshops as yardsticks, are the Laguna-based Pettyjohns who specialize in stoneware and porcelain, and the use of indigenous materials such as local clay, feldspar, quartz, ash from various wood types, rice straw, and volcanic ash from Taal, Pinatubo, and Makiling. Quezon-based Ugu Bigyan, on the other hand, primarily distinguishes his work through his appropriation of bamboo and twigs as adjunct elements. Using tapestry as a bridge-over to the medium, Bigyan has since produced tiles, and sculptural as well as utilitarian pieces, aside from continuing to create terracotta embellished tapestries and overseeing his annual pottery workshops. Among other artists primarily producing functional work, it is Antipolo-based Lanelle Abueva-Fernando’s productions of culinary and serving vessels that possess the slickest surfaces and contours. Similar to the way other artists have taken to incorporating Pinatubo ash, Abueva’s work is a conspicuous illustration of the way local potters continuously seek to appropriate materials from their environment in their attempt to adapt themselves to comparatively inhospitable local working conditions. What remains strikingly evident among all these potters is their almost concurrent drawing upon organic forms and motifs.
In contrast to other more individualist contemporary visual art disciplines, clay art still generally persists amidst some form of apprenticeship arrangement. Laganse and Kilat for instance, exhibit works applying the newest research on ash glazes and white Shino glaze from Japan. Both received training under the Pettyjohns, while Bigyan credits his beginnings to previously active potters, Jaime and Anne de Guzman. A consuming focus on material and technique is particularly evident among these artists, regardless of how disparate their initial forays into clay may seem.
Meanwhile, among the artists taking a clearly more sculptural approach to the medium are Julie Lluch, Lia Tayag, Jecky Alano, Baidy Mendoza, Ting Ping Lay, Duddley Diaz, Roberto Acosta, Cecil de Leon, Aba and Krista Dalena, Herminigildo Pineda, Zaldy Jumawan, Boy Masculino, Noel Mendez, Dado Tan, Eva Lund, Ton Raymundo, Charito Bitanga, John Paul Olivares, and Jose Cao, among others. Arguably straddling the functional-sculptural divide are the recent works of Nelfa Querubin. Tayag, Mendoza and Mafune produce both planar and free-standing pieces, with Tayag and Mendoza particularly identified with overt feminist statements. A cursory scan of clay work currently being exhibited yields the observation that figuration is a strong element among artists actively producing sculptural pieces using this medium. Apart from Bitanga’s terracotta mobiles, by far the farthest stretch from the single object, functional temperament is manifest in Roberto Villanueva’s valedictory installation-performance Ego’s Grave and the recent pieces of Jenifer Wofford and Cristina Taniguchi. Taniguchi’s recently exhibited terracotta installation, Mannequins, traces its inspiration to Bacolod-based painter Charlie Co who earlier on incorporated terracotta figures onto his mixed media wall works. Filipino-American, Wofford, on the other hand, recently showed in Manila with other artists from the San Francisco collective, Babaylan. Her quirky conceptual terracotta terno sleeves and corset, effectively called attention to constricting stereotypical images of the Filipina.
As a result of all these artists’ persistence and passionate exploration, clay as a sculptural medium has slowly but increasingly become mainstreamed. A variety of innovations have since been introduced yielding an assortment of output ranging from freehand to thrown work, tiles, assemblage, life-casts, mobiles, self-portraits, tableaus, and busts. Clay has also steadily been gaining a following across generations of individuals derisively called hobbyists.
Photography, Video and Performance
In as much as photography and video are inherently technology-driven art forms, early works in these media were necessarily constricted by technical rather than ideational concerns. Remaining still very much in the backseat in terms of public exposure and absorption into the mainstream art structure, the recent drift toward multi- and trans-media collaborative productions may just be the boost photographers and video artists require to widen their audiences and multiply venues for their work.
At the moment, it is still practicable to group the comparatively small number of practicing photographers via their thematic and aesthetic inclinations, that is, in an attempt to distinguish art photography from photography as mere documentary tool. Among those steadily working in the fashion and commercial photography genre are Lita Puyat, Stella Kalaw, Paul Durano, Paco Guerrero, Jeanne Young, Alex Emil Rodriguez, ,Eddie Boy Escudero, Claudine Sia and Neil Lucente. At the other end of the spectrum are photojournalists and occasional human interest and travel photographers, Tommy Hafalla, Alex Baluyut, Jun and Nico Sepe, Sid Balatan, Dino Ignacio, Arnold Jumpay, Alberto Marquez, Derek Soriano, Raymond Panaligan, Presciano Yabao, Ben Razon, Neil Daza and Emil Davocol. Nature photography on the other hand has been closely associated with the work of Jaime Zobel, Arnel Villegas, Peter Bangayan, Briccio Santos, Lita Puyat, Erik Liongoren, Rowena Vivien Sy, Norman Jaravata, Jose Campos, Claudine Sia, and Boy Yniguez. The still life, on the other hand has found its own proponents among Julius Clar, Chester Ong, and Rommel Bernardino.
The extent to which images have been subject to manual as well as technical manipulation is a key element in the work of contemporary photographers, particularly in light of the increasing availability of technological tools that have afforded almost boundless liberties to artists coveting control over their final output. Cases in point are Tita Lim’s penchant for scratching, burning and splicing of negatives, Armando Alorro and Jun Montifar’s digitized images, and Epy Quizon’s neon and ultraviolet prints. The varying levels of intervention extends to materials used as can be gleaned in the liquid light images of Eric Zamuco and Dulzzi Gutierrez, photo laser print installations of Paul Pfeiffer, Maribeth Soldevilla Relano, Vicente Golveo, photogravures of Toto Labrador, and the recently exhibited mixed media works of members of the Camera Club of the Philippines.
Possibly as a result of the growing interest in artificially generated images accompanying the rise of cyberculture, the past two years have been witness to an upswing in photography exhibitions either collectively or individually featuring works by artists such as Alex Baluyut, Peter Bangayan, Veronica Basilio, Emily Cheng, Lucky Besa, Julius Clar, Reina Cruz, Tom Epperson, Miguel Fabie III, Mark Gary, Matt Gatton, Paco Guerrero, Dulzzi Gutierrez, Raymund Isaac, Norman Jaravata, Stella Kalaw, Albert Labrador, Toto Labrador, Manuel Laqui, Tita Lim, Arturo Luz, Mark Meily, Chester Ong, Neal Oshima, Kat Palasi, Butch Perez, Lita Puyat, Francis Rivera, Claudine Sia, Derek Soriano, Denise Weldon, Robin Haines-Merrill, Boy Yñiguez, and Jeanne Young.
Parallel to the work of artists in other disciplines, Filipino-American photographers have also consciously worked along the identity nexus by producing work speaking to this focus. Among these are Norman Montifar, Archie Reyes, Luis Manalo, Cedric Angeles, Brian Barenio and Armand Frasco.
Meanwhile, an independent and clearly conceptual stream of work has also been steadily gaining ground by way of the photo and mixed media installations of Paul Robles, Joseph Santarromana, Romeo Lee, Gerry Tan, Lani Maestro, Ringo Bunoan, Yvette Pantilla, Alfred Cruz, Lyra Garcellano, Rhonda Miranda, Lena Cobangbang, Annie Valencia, Manny Migrino and the multi-media group Faust. Their wide range of thematic concerns traverses the unabashedly autobiographical, the identity-perception nexus, involuntary disappearances, and expended time traces.
The often fuzzy boundaries governing these still relatively new visual media is best illustrated in the case of video, since it is in this art form that artificially polar concepts of theme and form and dated ideas of purity of medium have clearly given way to a state of affairs where such appellations are increasingly becoming defunct. Presently, work that passes off as video art unproblematically earns screening time in alternative and occasionally even mainstream film venues. Such is the case of Ronald Anading’s video discourse on the line; and, Leslie de Chavez, Patrick Ogena, Juanito Torres and Don Salubayba’s underhanded commentaries on pornography. Other artists that have gained varying levels of prominence through their work in video are Rico Reyes, Eliza Barrios, Eric Manabat, Angel Velasco Shaw, Marlon Fuentes, Julie Tolentino, and Celine Salazar Parrenas. Hybrids of video and allied artforms are manifested in recent works such as Nona Garcia’s painting and video biopsy reference, Katya Guerrero’s voyeur-peeving looped stoics, Ringo Bunoan and Olivier Rochot’s collaborative take on Yves Klein’s blue fetish and signature image, Sandra Palomar’s drawn-out carving of carrots taking off from a similarly inspired performance, Merlinda Bobis’ poetry-film installation-audio art performance, Ami Misciano’s frequent collusions with dance artists, and Kidlat Tahimik’s performative resurrections of his iconic film character wielding his characteristic bamboo camera.
This repeated falling in between now necessarily non-static genera of form promises to be a distinguishing feature of output in these newer art media. Also reflected in the body of current works is the varying emphases on process vis a vis final product, and contending inclinations running along the purely visual-to literary narrative continuum.
As an intrinsically collaborative medium, performance too is invariably pluralist and hybrid in manifestation. The range is illustrated in Roberto Villanueva’s shamanistic rituals of purging and remembrance; Judy Sibayan’s reconfiguring of the art market through her walking scapular gallery; Yason Banal’s stinging discourse on gallery culture with his own role-playing of an opening night cocktail; Yuan Mor’o Ocampo’s meshing of aboriginal and indigenous traditions; Elemento’s integrated performance and clean-up of the Angono river; and, Jojo Legaspi’s graphic subversions of sacrosanct images. With a host of persuasions representing creative methods that run the sweep from the studied to the spontaneous, the performance medium demonstrates its dexterity of use as vehicle for narcissistic abandon as well as ultragraphic didactic aid.
Enjoying a mild resurgence among a younger set of artists and audiences, performance has been at the core of such collaborative events as David Medalla’s impromptu participatory production-gatherings; the Ayala Museum’s one-nighter dubbed Post; poetry performances at alternative venues such as Surrounded by Water; dance artist, Myra Beltran’s interactions with visual artists Karen Flores, Lia Tayag, Katti Sta. Ana and Alma Urduja Quinto; Jackie Mauersberger’s multi-media body painting events, and Walang Pamagat’s theater-cum-dance happenings headlined by Carlos Celdran, and Denis Lagdameo, among others. Drawing upon an indigenous tradition of ritual spectacle, on the other hand are artists such as Ben-hur Villanueva, Perry Argel, Rene Aquitania, Shant Verdun, Santiago Bose, Mike Archivido and Diokno Pasilan, among others. Performance also continues to be a mode through which traditions are reconstrued as illustrated by Diutay Soluta’s ongoing research on Visayan musical elements as bridges to intellectual and physical processes, and the deconstruction of enduring myths relating to beauty and femininity taken on by the santacruzan-inspired event, Queenly Matter which brought together the works of Toni Bernardo, Lille Bose, Corrine Ching, Sari Dalena, Cecil de Leon, Paula Guinto, Alma Urduja Quinto, Ann Wizer, Senyorita Mads, Rica Concepcion, Kriss Ocampo, Deborah and Theresa Eastwood, Ringo Bunoan, Len Familara, and Riza Manalo.
It is particularly in light of such discipline-crossing developments that traditional visual art canons will necessarily yield in the coming years to encompass other emerging forms such as tattoo art, body painting, comic and book illustration, and animation. This dynamic state of affairs only serves to reinforce the notion that all cultures are hybrid and constantly in evolution.
Photos courtesy of :
Arts and Associates Gallery, Boston Gallery, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Galleria Duemila, Hiraya Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, The Drawing Room, The Society of Philippine Sculptors, UP Jorge Vargas Memorial Museum
Jaime Zobel de Ayala- http://globe.com/ph/~jza/
Baguio Arts Guild-http://alexmaskara.simplenet.com/baguio , http://inthebag.isCool.net
Bayani Magazine- http://primaveradesign.com/bayani.html
Santiago Bose- http://www.tribo.org/santiagobose
Imelda Cajipe-Endaya- http://www.znet.com/~kyzenr/cajipe-endaya
Jay Campos- http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/Stonewall/3953/
Cebu Artists Inc.-http://www.cebu-online.com/cai
Fil de la Cruz- http://members.tripod.com/~fildelacruz
Neil Doloricon- http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/5067/
Jasper Espejo- http://members.tripod.com/~j_espejo/
Filipino Arts- http://www.filipinoarts.com/
Armand Frasco- http://www.tribo.org/armandfrasco/
Rody Herrera- http://www.pworld.net.ph/user/rovie/Rody.html
Sid Gomez Hildawa- http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Gallery/1888/
Iligan Cyber Gallery- http://www.angelfire.com/va/iligan/
Isangmahal Arts Collective- http://www.geocities.com/~makibaka/
Lenore Lim- http://members.tripod.com/lenore-lim/
Norman Montifar- http://www.montifar.com/
Multi-color Exhibitors- http://www.netasia.net/users/mce-phil/
Other States- http://wirephoto.com/benrazon/
Mario Parial- http://www.iupui.edu/~dleanard/parial/index.html
Pen and Ink- http://www.penandink.com.ph/cover.htm
Philippine Photographers Directory- http://www3.photographers.com.ph/dinolara/
Photo Alliance- http://members.tripod.com/photoall/index.html
Cenon Rivera- http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Studios/7634/
Alfredo Roces- http://ecompete.com/dingroces/
Sining Pilipino Limbag- http://www.hain.org/sining4/
Tribung Pinoy- http://www.tribo.org/flips1.html
Ateneo Art Gallery- http://www.admu.edu.ph/services2/Art Gallery Home Page/aghome.htm
Third Space- http://thirdspace.virtualave.net/
Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan- http://www.ink.org.ph/
|Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez is taking her masteral studies in Art History at the University of the Philippines. She worked as a researcher on the Galleries Documentation Project of NCCA on National Artists.|