Light is a medium that is increasingly being used by contemporary artists. Edd Aragon, a Filipino-born artist based in Australia, has created a unique paint formula that allows him to paint under UV (ultraviolet) light. In a kind of homecoming, 25 of his UV light-reactive paintings are being shown at the Yuchengco Museum in Manila.

Artist Edd Aragon. Photo by Mario Aldeguer. Image courtesy Yuchengco Musuem.

“Under A Different Light” features portraits of women done in light-reactive paint on white canvas, which are, under normal lighting, seemingly missing. However, once exposed to ultraviolet rays being emitted from bulbs installed vertically inside a rotating half-cylinder located on the floor of the gallery, the figures come alive with a bluish glow, exhibiting a three-dimensional quality.

Edd Aragon, 'Woman 2', 2010, UV light-reactive paint on canvas. Image courtesy Yuchengco Museum.

Edd Aragon, 'Woman 2', 2010, UV light-reactive paint on canvas. Image courtesy Yuchengco Museum.

In an artist statement, Edd Aragon explains what painting with this unconventional medium is like:

To paint with ‘liquid optic fibres’ and then be gently put in a trance – perhaps that’s [a] close enough description [of what] it’s like to work with ultraviolet light-reactive paint on canvas. Blame my  fascination [with] adding mystery and rebirthing mental images under a different light, working in tandem with a close ally, which resides in a hidden spectrum, the ultraviolet. [I am] intent [on] revealing invisible women and urging them to speak their own silent narratives, and still be grateful to the gods of ‘lumière ultra-violette’.

Originally a caricaturist for daily newspapers such as Philippine Bulletin Today, The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald, the challenge of painting with a new technology presented itself in 2004 when Aragon was commissioned to paint the murals of a Sydney restaurant that featured black light.

Edd Aragon's artist talk at Yuchengco Museum, Philippines (2011). Image courtesy Yuchengco Museum.

Edd Aragon's artist talk at Yuchengco Museum, Philippines (2011). Image courtesy Yuchengco Museum.

Through the Internet, he did research on pigments, polymers, optical brighteners, and binders as well as studying how to work safely under UV light. With the help of a chemist-friend he was able to formulate his own medium, which he calls “Aragonite”, also the name of the UV light-reactive mineral, first discovered in Aragon, Spain, that he used in his paint formula.

Says the artist of his method:

I have to go through an analytical mental process when using UV-reactive materials as it is tricky – [for example], white paint [shows] as ‘black’ under UV light – and develop the painting as I go. Brushwork is almost second nature, but theme is my real palette, bridging old and modern day heroes using musical and visual allusions in an alternative light. It’s almost like exploring the dark side of the moon. Truth is hard to perceive in blinding day-to-day life…. Beneath the prismatic chaos resides the ultraviolet rays of rapture for things unseen.

This exhibition is not the first time his paintings have been put on show. An exhibition in April 2008 at Banyuhay ni Heber Arts and Music Center in Quezon City, Philippines featured images of legendary musicians, allegorical symbols, and nudes. The show’s centerpiece was a big portrait of Tandang Sora, a figure from Philippine history. In 2007, his paintings were put on show in Sydney.

About Edd Aragon

Edd Aragon is a Sydney-based artist. He was born in Manila in 1949 and moved to Australia in 1979. He worked as an editorial cartoonist for several newspapers and now serves as contributor for Bayanihan News. He is currently a member of several artist groups including the Philippine-Australian Artists Association, the Blacktown Artist Network and Filpress Sydney. In a recent artist talk at Yuchengco Museum Edd Aragon declared, “We all seek light.”


Related Topics: Filipino artists, light as medium, painting

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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