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Art Fair PH 2024: Rom Villaseran Mounts A Solo Exhibition With MONO8

Artist Rom Villaseran presents new worlds and characters through the "Kuhol" series, curated by MONO8's Gwen Bautista

“I’ve always wanted to build my world,” artist Rom Villaseran tells us. It’s a dream he’s had since he was a kid that eventually took form in the solace of his studio. 

“I think, as I grew up, I realized that, ‘Hey, I can just keep drawing on things and share them with people.’ So, it was not a difficult decision to get into art making,” he adds.

What can prove to be challenging, though, is to keep thriving even in the fantastical worlds he creates. Just like the imagined realms, terrains, and landscapes in his paintings, the reflection of life can be gritty, chaotic, and dark一and that’s a reality that has constantly inspired his creations.

“I think every stage of my life had a very different obstacle that I had to go through. And early on, I knew that the best pieces I could come out with were the ones that were most honest,” Rom muses. 

Artist Rom Villaseran
Artist Rom Villaseran | Photo by CJ Reyes

Rom reigns in worldbuilding. And while his practice is not merely a profession but also a passion, it’s possible to fall into the abyss and get lost in the dark somewhere, somehow. His paintings are literally dark because the nighttime is a common element in them, but figuratively, they mirror his mindset and experiences. 

He was in a dark place, he admits. He has been elusive since he stepped away from the art scene in 2017 to focus on commissioned work. So, in a way, his showcase at the Art Fair Philippines 2024 is like stepping into the light and going back to his core with a brighter state of mind. The gallery that represents him for this year’s Art Fair Philippines is MONO8, and Rom worked closely with its director and curator, Gwen Bautista

“When you do shows back-to-back for many years, it takes so much from you. And after a while, I felt that I just had to step back and take care of myself if I wanted to continue producing things for the rest of my life. So, this is the start of many other projects that I think Gwen and I want to produce,” he opened up. “I wanted to reposition the world I was trying to produce. I was no longer in a dark place so I didn’t want to produce dark pieces anymore. And I think that’s why it’s perfect that I started working with a different team.” 

A painting from Rom Villaseran's "Kuhol" series
A painting from Rom Villaseran's "Kuhol" series

In 2022, Rom and Gwen began brainstorming on a series. At the time, it didn’t occur to them yet where and how they were going to present it一what was important to them was to produce and collaborate on a collection to share with people. While they’ve known each other for years, their participation at Art Fair Philippines marks their first full-on show together.

“I think it’s timely because my depression and mental state took a turn, and I just started feeling better,” Rom shared. “I just wanted to create more stuff that were slightly brighter.” With this comeback of sorts, Rom and Gwen felt the Art Fair Philippines was the perfect venue for his new series. “It was originally 16,” says Rom of the number of pieces in this series. “But after the tenth, I felt we had enough. Anything that you add to this would just be fat. It wouldn’t be the meat of the whole series anymore.”   

His solo exhibition, as MONO8 describes, “places emphasis on characters that reference a ‘Kuhol’ or a snail and alludes to its different meanings throughout cultures, perhaps and most notably, the Aztecs' reverence to its representation of life– appearing and disappearing while taking its time in transition but nonetheless marking its constant presence and knowing the secrets of reincarnation.” 


One can say this snail is the representation of Rom and his journey through “empirical life.” The paintings in his latest series are not only brighter in terms of colors but also the subject matter. “Even with the way I think [as I produced] these pieces, they’re so much brighter,” he points out.  

The process that went behind putting this solo exhibition together was not all creative, it was also an emotional journey that involved a great deal of retrospection and introspection. Besides the output, it’s that kind of narrative that Gwen and the MONO8 gallery want to give a platform to. 

“I was always interested in the things he did,” Gwen says of Rom. “The great attention to detail. Really, there’s no compromise in the way he makes his works. That was something very interesting to me. It’s very interesting for me what he does, in the way he builds images, he builds worlds as well.”

With Rom’s story and body of work as perfect examples, Gwen explains why his collaboration with MONO8 aligns perfectly with their gallery’s vision. She says, “This is the kind of practice that MONO8 is interested in. It’s not just about the painting. It’s not just about the image, you know? It’s not just about the techniques or the skill of the artist, but it’s more of ‘Why are they so much invested in the things that they do?... Why are they giving their life to an art practice?’ And that’s something that we really want to articulate in the exhibitions and the projects we make for MONO8.”

As Rom comes out of this snail’s shell, breaking out of his cocoon, he’s pleasantly surprised with the evolution of the current art landscape in the Philippines, too. “I see a lot of young talents,” Rom observes. “And it makes you hopeful [for] the things that they’re just about to produce in the next decade.” 

He also pointed out that Gwen was telling him people don’t really look at styles anymore. “They focus more on the process of the artist,” he is told.

“I begin all of my works with chaos. It has to begin with chaos and randomness and a sense of feeling lost,” Rom says of his creative process. With what it took for him to mount this solo exhibition一the first time in years一Art Fair Philippines visitors may also need a moment to process their emotions as they look at his paintings and his worlds through their own lens.  

Watch our full Metro Talks interview with artist Rom Villaseran:

Visit MONO8 at Art Fair Philippines - Booth 13, 5F, The Link, Ayala Center, Makati on February 16 to 18. Check out MONO8's Auxiliary Exhibition, too, at BLK 113, 53 Connecticut Street, Greenhills, San Juan City on February 15 to 18.

Happening on February 16 to 18 at The Link in Makati City, this year's edition of Art Fair Philippines features 55 gallery exhibitions, a multi-level show of the best in Filipino modern and contemporary art, and a comprehensive, timely, and vibrant program that provides fair visitors opportunities to deepen their exposure and enhance their engagement with art.

Tickets to the fair are now available online at Regular tickets, available for Php 750.00, will provide visitors access to exhibitions by participating galleries from the Philippines and overseas and all ArtFairPH sections including ArtFairPH/Projects, ArtFairPH/Photo, ArtFairPH/Digital, ArtFairPH/Residencies Exhibit, and the ArtFairPH/Talks Program. 

Tickets will also be available at the 4th Floor Reception of Art Fair Philippines at The Link, Makati City from February 16 to 18. Concession and discounted tickets for students, PWD, and senior citizens are also available on-site. 

The participating exhibitors from the Philippines are Altro Mondo, Art Cube Gallery, Art Elaan, Art for Space, Art Lounge Manila, Art Underground, Art Verité Gallery, Avellana Art Gallery, Boston Art Gallery, CANVAS, Cartellino, Galeria Paloma, Galerie Stephanie, Gravity Art Space, J STUDIO, Kaida Contemporary, León Gallery, METRO Gallery, Modeka Art, MONO8, Orange Project, Paseo Art Gallery, Pintô Art Museum and Arboretum, Qube Gallery, Richard Koh Fine Art, Secret Fresh Gallery, SILVERLENS, Superduper Art Gallery, TARZEER PICTURES, THE CRUCIBLE GALLERY, TRIANGULUM, Vantage Contemporary, Village Art Gallery, White Walls Gallery, and Ysobel Art Gallery.

The Philippines’ leading galleries will be joined by a wider roster of foreign galleries including Art Agenda (Singapore and Indonesia), Artemis Art (Malaysia), Gajah Gallery (Singapore and Jakarta), Galería Cayón (Spain), GALLERY KOGURE,  (Japan), Kobayashi Gallery (Japan), Mind Set Art Center (Taiwan),  Nunu Fine Art (Taiwan), Yiri Arts (Taiwan), The Columns Gallery (South Korea), SHUKADO+GALLERY SCENA (Japan), Vin Gallery (Vietnam), Yavuz Gallery (Singapore and Australia), and YOD Gallery (Japan).

Art Fair Philippines 2024 also welcomes the participation of incubator spaces, ArtFairPH/Incubators, creative spaces outside the mainstream gallery format including exhibitors Authenticity Zero, isTorya Studios, Manila Illustration Fair, Pangasinan Group, Talyer 15, and The Empty Scholar. 

Art Fair Philippines also invites all ticket holders to check the 10 Days of Art calendar of events at 10 Days of Art is a program that runs from February 10 to 19, highlighting a series of events around the Makati Central Business District with participation by galleries, museums, bars, restaurants, and retail establishments celebrates art beyond the venue of the fair.

For more information, visit the Art Fair Philippines website and follow Art Fair Philippines on Instagram (@artfairph) and Facebook (

Lead photo from @mono8gallery

Sandra Palomar on Curating Art Fair PH 2024's Photo Section


Sandra Palomar on Curating Art Fair PH 2024's Photo Section

Artist Phyllis Zaballero Joins Art Fair Philippines 2024's "Pambabae" Exhibit


Artist Phyllis Zaballero Joins Art Fair Philippines 2024's "Pambabae" Exhibit