Midterm Project: Art Fair Philippines

Art is the essence of awareness. — Louise Nevelson

Visiting the Art Fair Philippines last February 16, 2017 was a great experience for me. Seeing artworks of various artists, showing and promoting different kinds of advocacy or issue, makes me more aware of the realities of the world. It’s quite exhausting because there really is a lot to explore. Art is the true representation of stories, true to life stories, and the Art Fair Philippines 2017 was so successful in narrating the stories of the artists and the stories of the people that are projected by the artworks.

Before I explain the artworks of my chosen gallery and artists, I will share a short story of kindness that happened to me in the Art Fair.

We arrived at the venue around 12 noon. That time, it was not so crowded compared to other days. I think I was lucky that day because after paying the ticket worth P50, a woman (American, around 30’s) approached me and gave me the mini book and the map of the Art Fair. She asked me if I want it and I asked her if it was free. She told me that she paid P150 for it but then she has to leave already that’s why she will just give it to me because I was a student. I said thank you, and she smiled before leaving. That woman makes my day extra fun for I was able to understand the artworks more through the use of the book. I don’t even know your name, but thank you very very much Ma’am!

There are at least 40 galleries inside the Art Fair and I will discuss my two favorite galleries named CANVAS or Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS).

This gallery is consist of artworks from Daniel Aligaen, John Paul Antido, Edrick Daniel, Dennis Fortozo, Guerrero Habulan, Joven Mansit, Jaypee Samson, and Pogs Samson (collectively known as SANGVIAJE), Marcel Antonio, John Paul Antido, J Pacena II, Arturo Sanchez, and many more. For me, this gallery’s overall theme is addressing the social issues of our society. The artworks inside it are quite rebellious because it can trigger one’s political belief. This gallery has a serious vibe, it gives off an aura that politically inclined and socially responsible people will be attracted to. I personally enjoyed this artwork because I can directly relate to it. I can reflect to some paintings, that yes, some of our beliefs are really rotten and if we do not change now, the system will continuously destroy us.

Here are three artworks from the Canvas Gallery:

  1. Ang Patuloy na Pag-usad ng Lipunang May Sayad by SANVIAJE
SANGVIAJE * Ang Patuloy na Pag-usad ng Lipunang May Sayad * Acrylic on Canvas

This was the first painting that totally catch my attention to the extent that I I even sat in the chair in front of this painting and stare at it for almost 5–10 minutes. The painting is too deep. It shows how sick our society is. As you can see, the whole community is placed above the shell of a turtle which can symbolize our country progressing or growing in a slow phase. The soil where everything is grounded is too dry, which shows how we exploit our resources and does not even care to replace it. It might also be the inspiration why there are bones of animals scattered in the grounds. The Manunggul Jar near the bottom right corner of the painting conveys a message that we tend to forgot the real value of our history. On the bottom left corner, you’ll see two kids representing the marginalized sector of our society — the poor. In the City-like drawing above the shell of the turtle, we can actually a social class. At the entrance, you’ll see that the design is like a door to hell which for me suggests how everyone is being swallowed by the rotten system (“kinain na nang sistema”). If you observe very well, the people in this painting comes from different time periods — some are wearing old clothes (like that of the soldier in the right side), some are wearing a superhero costume; different social classes — some looks poor, but some looks rich (like the one wearing a gown) BUT all of them looks unhappy. The clouds are very dark, which intensifies the negative side that the painting wants to show us. The higher portion of the painting depicts an entrance to the heaven, which is the goal of almost all religions. We are conditioned to do good things because we want to reserve our place in heaven, right? The two eyes in the sky, might actually represent God because he can see everything that is going on here in the Earth, right? Although it might also represent the eyes of the artists, because for that artist, this is how he/she perceives our society.

2. Urban Apocalypse by Marcel Antonio

Marcel Anotnio * Urban Apocalypse * Acrylic on canvas * 152 cm x 122 cm

As what the title says, this is an epitome of mass destruction. It portrays various types of people that does not fall under the purview of organized economic activities or the government. The painting shows a fully developed society in the upper part, and that marginalized sector that are not part of the development of the country.

There are heroes like Darna, who tries to help those who are in need. There’s a man (who actually looks like Rizal) who’s using his phone — that for me represents the youth. I think it uses Rizal since Rizal was the one who said that “The youth is the hope of our nation”. However the youth nowadays are coined to be “apathetic” and “addicted to social media” which is very ironic since can they be spark the change if they will not move and do their part? There is also an image of Nazareno — which symbolizes the Saint that most people run to whenever they need a miracle in life. There is also a man and woman having sex. A sexy star or GRO. A thief. All of them — contributes to how the society is formed. And if they do not change for the better, and if the government does not include them in the development then our country might actually collapse, and an Urban Apocalypse might really happen.

3. There is Hope as Long as We Can Breathe by Arturo Sanchez

Arturo Sanchez * There is Hope as Long as We Can Breathe * Collage in clear cast polyurethane resin

Seeing this makes me sad, and makes me want to give a better future to them. The collage is very powerful; the emotions of the humans used are very strong. I don’t know howto interpret their faces, it seems like some are in pain, some are okay. Actually, at first I thought it was a collage about a war or extra judicial killings. But it was only a compilation of different individuals. I wonder why the it was titled as such. But I think that it is because upon seeing it, your emotions will be provoked to feel hope — that whatever happens in our life right now, we should never give up. As long as we breathe, there is hope, keep that in mind. :)

“An eagerly awaited component of the far is ArtFairPH/Projects which commissions work from Filipino visual artists for the fair. The fair aims to mirror the vibrant local art scene and continue to generate support for Filipino art practitioners.”

In the special exhibition of 11 known Contemporary Filipino Artists, I would like to specifically explore the works of Elmer Borlongan/Emmanuel Garibay/ Mark Justiniani; Maria Jeona Zoleta; and Ronald Ventura.

  1. Elmer Borlongan/Emmanuel Garibay/ Mark Justiniani

“We are in search of The Narrative, the story that we can tell to speak of who we are. As individuals. As a people. As a nation.”

Tagadagat * Oil on Canvas

This group of artist presents an artwork that is all about the history of the Philippines. These artists deeply believe that slowly and with every mural they paint, they could be instrumental to change. Their emphasis in making art is to tell a story that everyone could understand, in order for it to be shared easily. This particular piece is their only artwork in the Art Fair because they are only a part of Bench/Presents. It generates an idea for us to think what does being a Filipino means, who we are as a nation and where are we headed.

In Tagadagat, you’ll see a boat positioned in the middle of a sea. I think it represents how the first community in the Philippines, called Balangay, was formed. Different kinds of Filipinos are inside the boat, all of them seems to think where they are about to go. The sky was deep orange, maybe it was a sunset since some of the clouds are also gray. There are men and women in the boat, some are looking forward, and some are not — which I think implies that in order for us to build our identity, we have to integrate the past and the future that we want to achieve. If you will observe, you’ll see the Golden Tara of Agusan del Sur, (which is now housed in the Fields Museum of Chicago), the entrance of Intramuros — these are relevant for the overall impact of the art because these things have a rich history about it.

The challenge that the artwork seeks to convey is for us to establish what direction we should go to as a nation, and as a Filipino, what should be our role and participation in making a distinct identity. For “we cannot remain mere passive witnesses to the unfolding of history”.

And as what the artists said “We rise and fall with everyone. We are all in the same boat.”

2. Maria Jeona Zoleta

As an artist, Zoleta’s art are very playful and unconvenitonal — she showed her peculiarity and fascination in her lifes by making virtual and artificial realities. If you would not observe the details of her work, you might think that her arts are very kid-like or innocent, however if you go through the details, you will see vulgarity and liberation. She draws some penis, man and woman having sex, I think she even used condom to design her exhibition. Her designs are very bright, she utilizes neon colors, glitters, confetti, etc. which makes a great contradictory impressions to each other.

I like her artworks because it is very random, it is actually a perfect example on how art is used to express emotions and ideas. The artwork is quite hard to explain but for me it emphasizes how we should not be limited by the constraints given by the society.

3. Ronald Ventura

Seven Starts Inverted 2017 * Beasty 2017 * Black Sheep 2017

The exhibition of Ronald Ventura entitled Shadow Forest: Encounters and Explorations deals with a lot of imagination. His painting, just like in the photo above are a creatures that do not exist. I think he wants to capture the audience’ interest by activating their imagination about the wilderness — what could you possibly experience in the forest, or maybe in the dark. At first the paintings were a little creepy for me, good thing that there are short explanation about the paintings or structure posted in the wall near the artwork. For example, the Seven Stars Inverted (Digital Prit on Backlit Film, Light Box) represent ideas and achievements. It basically symbolize the people we idolized, because just like the star, we look up to them and appreciate how they shine brightly for us.

Overall Art Fair Experience

The audience who are attending the event during our visit is more sophisticated than the audience in the National Museum. The audience are also given more freedom in the Art Fair, we were allowed to really explore everything. The facilitators are more approachable and my favorite part is that taking photos are allowed! Audiences in the event are eager to learn what the painting is all about because some of them are really going to buy the artworks in the exhibit. The Art Fair is also more interactive. The audience in the National Museum are more formal, and some do not actually give time to understand the artwork (especially because during or visit, there is an Elementary Fieldtrip going on and the students are just passing by and the facilitators rarely explain what the artworks want to convey). The actions of the audience are more controlled and even the artworks, it is more of traditional paintings (of course).

I must say that the local contemporary Philippine art scene is vibrant. It is very dynamic and the Filipino artists are very good. Their motivation and inspirations are very deep. You can expect that the future of Arts in the Philippines are in good hand and everyone should hope that it would expand continuously.

Overall, my experience in visiting the Art Fair was one of a kind. I enjoyed a lot and it has increased my knowledge about the contemporary arts of the Philippines. I am looking forward in attending the next Art Fair Philippines. See you next year!

Selfies at the Art Fair Philippines 2017! :)

Alyanna and Hazel * Alyanna
Alyanna, Hazel, Gillian, and Angelica