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Single Origin: The Artists of ArtFairPh/Projects 2019

As the local art scene grows exponentially, each artist has a way of tackling the realities of life, in the world we live in now. Gone are the pops of color and fun artworks, as this group ventures into a genre that takes people out of their comfort zones and into the darkness of this temporary world lent to us, and then, the infinite possibilities of the unknown—over which we totally have no control of. It is art that makes us realize how foolish we are despite all our worldly knowledge. 



D’Aboville has a history of creating beautiful transparent lamps made out of plastic bottles, her medium of choice. She has worked on the ocean as topic. This time, especially for the upcoming Art Fair, she takes the opportunity to feature something different, using a common type of plastic that comes from packaging wrappers never collected for recycling. Her masterpiece, called Catch of the Day, a net strewn with squares of aluminum-lined wrappers, shows the illusion of an underwater life and the alarming pollution of the seas. She also uses this piece to promote the recycling of these “soft plastics” that is not done by factories, but is already being done by certain companies, such as Envirotech in Davao that uses the material to create recycled aluminum planks for furniture. 

D’Aboville’s works usually tackles plastic and mismanagement of waste, and the work tells it literally: you go out to fish today but only end up catching plastic. This leads her to a valuable topic that she wants to highlight. “The term is anthropocene, how human behavior affects our geological period. My work describes the epoch now. We eat and breathe plastic. We drink water with microplastics. Everything in our lifestyle today is really plastic. It is ingrained in our lifestyle and our culture.”



Villamiel is a multimedia artist that collects discards from the debris-filled landscapes to create large-scale installation works that depict socio-ecological issues and man’s proclivity for destruction. He also uses his work to express his discomfort with today’s pressing issues—such as the failure of the government to provide sustainable housing for the poor that resulted in massive death in Payatas. To relate to the matter, he creates his installation called Payatas, made out of a sprawling lot of throwaway toys and refuse. It was featured at Singapore Biennale 2013. Another colossal installation of his is Back to Nature, which is made out of thousands of scrap nails, welded into skeletal growths, and embedded in a vast field of firewood charcoal, depicting the rapidly disappearing forests in the archipelago. Villamiel collects ruins from nature to remind us of everything lost and broken today due to greed, plunder, and death.



Villamael uses archive and cartography to create eloquent paper installations that tackle the concept of self and space. Cartography is a scientific practice of making maps that communicate spatial information. In his installation, entitled Behold a City––first showcased at Silverlens Gallery in 2015, and making an appearance at the Art Fair––he creates a paper cutout scale model of Manila. The metropolis gained a reputation in pre-war times as one of the most picturesque cities in the Colonial Southeast, a melting pot of Art Deco, Baroque, and Euro-American Revivalist architecture. However, after World War II, it was reduced to a charred landscape of rubble.

As an observant of places, Villamael creates his version of Manila, one that seemingly blends the past and present, in a collection of details that taps into his personal consciousness, a reframing of the city from his perspective, reflecting who he is and how he sees the world. His art plays with the concept of time and space, challenging the human mind to think outside the box. He takes Manila out of its worldly historical context and shares that it is a city seen through different eyes, a city formed regardless of period or time, but seen and experienced more intimately by each individual’s personal circumstances. It is a city unique to everyone’s lives spent here. His art somehow invites people to view the world and its many places as a collective memory that he or she has lived through, rather than a historical point of view.



In Jacinto’s hanging artwork called The Skinhouse, he skins a narra tree to create a 3D tree bark painting that utilizes every part of the tree. “It’s like putting together the pieces like a mosaic,” he says; “It shows my obsession with being closer to nature and at the same time, it commemorates something that no longer exists.” The artist likes to create paintings out of his castings of saps, roots, bark, and skin placed on canvas and painted over. His art is linked to his current obsession with his own little forest in Antipolo, where he goes to as much as possible to plant and cast more trees. “That is where I’m busy now,” he says, “I am excavating the place and doing landscaping.” Jacinto’s works somehow shows people’s lack of knowledge about the universality of nature. Showing the egotistic man’s long history of bending nature to its will, he works with nature to show the relationship between man, art, and the environment, and how people are supposed to exist only as proactive participants of nature. On the other side, he also conducts a show at J Studio with a group of artists that use industrial materials instead of traditional materials in creating a whole collection entitled Edifice and Fragments. Here they use concrete, steel bars, and other industrial and household materials to create monuments.



Forest for the Trees is Ramilo’s “biblioteque of books” that are made from wood remains from houses. She has arranged them like a library, with a glossary of the respective origins of the different wood pieces. Like an open book, this exhibit offers a multitude of readings to everyone. Ramilo explores the dimensions of language, how words—both written and aural— are understood as power and used as a means of control. On the other hand, she portrays words to be as abstract as art, totally uncontrollable, failing to explain the ambiguity and anxiety of the present time. Ramilo likes to show this through her series of dental assemblages that carry macabre moods. One work features a collection of human teeth lifecasts arranged in tiers to represent the shouts and cries of people massacred these times, and also metaphorically shows a multitude of mouths speaking different languages. For all the power that human pride has given to words—to write history, to devise current affairs, to gain intelligence, or whatnot—there remains no written warning of the actual direness of life today, of all people killed and all creations destroyed. One will just learn that throughout his or her life, the precious lessons are beyond words, and any attempt for control is futile, especially over fate. The more people seek power, the more truth becomes elusive to them.



Instead of using words, MM Yu uses photography in an attempt to document the world around us. She uses the medium in its ability to frame, superimpose, exclude, and capture self and space on the same image. “In my exhibit called Thoughts Collected, Recollected, I would archive images according to categories and also make them into photo books. I came up with the idea of photo books because sometimes I find it difficult to explain my work. I wanted people to read the pictures as if they were reading the book,” she says. “In one exhibit, I made 30 spiral bound photo books that I’ve arranged into themes and now I use these books to expand my work, make new selections, reorganize images, and produce yet more books.”

Subject/Object is an exhibition she has been working on for several years, first featured in 2009, and then exhibited again in 2019. It contains images of objects and spaces from artist’s studios, homes, and galleries. She attempts to find connection and association with other artists, only to realize that her photographic images and objects follow no predetermined order or arrangement, simply transpiring in space. “My photos primarily rely on chance. It is integrated with my daily routine and I always have my camera with me. And it is always unplanned. I take images that can construct narrative and meaning.” The artist is in a cycle of capturing realities around her, alienated with time, lost in her art, and attached to finding explanation to the complexity of life.



Vinluan uses the power of textile design by transforming a single roll of paper called Stonehenge Vellum, into a three-dimensional structure floating in space, suspended by strings. The piece creates an illusion of a continuous, organically shaped loop that features tableaus of sketches. With both sides of the paper drawn on, the viewer is meant to combine and recombine images from the different segments of the roll. The work features an endless concept that semi-defines the present time—a simultaneously unfolding phenomena that reflects the arbitrariness of the world we live in. Her art is a concept of no discernible plot, of no beginning and no end, conflicting with the linear progression of history. It tackles life as a constant loop, removing expectation and personal goals and welcoming experience and universal understanding.



Buenaventura’s exhibit, Copies will not fool, but fools will copy, are images associated with mechanical reproduction. “I collected various printer test pages,” she says, “You know when you try to install your printer, you have to make sure that it is connected to the computer. So you print out a test page and it just contains mostly gibberish to the layman because of the codes and names of the drivers installed in your computer so you won’t get anything from it except that your printer is working because at the bottom of the page it says congratulations, if you can read this page it means you have installed your printer correctly. So you know how people join online forums to ask help for troubleshooting? I collected print errors from these real people uploading in the internet who are asking others for help to resolve the printing problem.” Buenaventura makes the prints an original work of hers by converting them using hands-on labor and making them her own. She converts the misprints into outlines using Photoshop and prints them out at 20 percent capacity, so it can hardly be seen and then she fills them with graphite. Her purpose is to project manual labor versus mechanical revolution in her works, emphasizing that the value of her pieces is in her personal experience of making them, and not in the actual object. “When I’m drawing, it feels like the most natural thing. I could be drawing for eight hours straight and I feel like I’m in my element,” she says. “Most of my works are very tedious and take such a long time to make.”



“When we stayed in Italy, there’s this beautiful view of a mountain. I never noticed it before. I knew it was there, but I never noticed it. So there’s this idea that I’ve wasted my whole childhood without looking at the things around me because we’ve been stuck here in Manila where you only see the chaos,” says Zicarelli. When he was young, he took after his dad in his penchant to become a comic book artist, drawing Mickey Mouse and atomic bombs. As he grew up, he decided to join the growing community of artists and became a figurative artist. But in contrast, his paintings and sculptures today are completely black and heavy, made out of graphite dust mixed with acrylic based medium. He created this black hole sculpture where he mixed in charcoal powder, which originally had two skulls inside, but he decided to take them out because he got sick of skulls and just retained the hole that for him made the artwork more interesting. At times he looks at his artworks in his garage, and the boredom he feels makes him want to change them every now and then. His works are about moments and feelings, never overthinking it, just the way art sometimes should be. Currently, it seems to be simply an adaptation to his environment.



Ruiz’s paintings may be colorful but they carry sinister notes and images that depict the darkness of today. His work, entitled The Baroque Burden, Sacada features a field worker with a similar okir-like mass on his head and carrying baroque flowers. “It’s about all of us who are suffering are made to carry the bullshit. That is what is happening nowadays,” says Ruiz.

Ruiz has always wanted to be an artist since he was three. His grandfather used to babysit him and he’d give Ruiz an artbook. This eventually cultivated his passion for art, being the only one in a family of eight children working in the arts. His persona somehow reflects in his works: sharp with a tone of sarcasm, with hints of malevolence that also explains the corruptness of his surroundings. 



Cabangis finished his studies in art and trained in painting growing up, taking after his father who is a painter and art professor. He creates modern paintings using acrylic and emulsion transfer as his medium of choice. He uses a transfer technique to reproduce multiple photographic images and create collated layers. His works are about reconstructed memories and scenes from his personal experience. In his art, he explores the process of remembering and forgetting, a means of making sense out of everyday life. Rather than using words as a means of communication, he uses his paintings to be understood. His works are deep in abstraction, reflecting his ongoing search for life’s great meaning.


Photographs by Dix Perez and Jingo Montenejo; Other photographs courtesy of Art Fair Ph


This article was originally published in Metro Society February 2019 issue.