Filipino mentorship programme gives young artists an opportunity to learn from prominent figures in the country’s art scene.
Art Radar profiles 4 Filipino artists who refuse to be dictated by popular tastes, market projections and even media. Born in the early 90s, these talented and insightful individuals explore a variety of issues in their art-making.
Being based in a country with a robust art scene poses two options for young artists. There’s the immediate entry into the market, which means following whatever popular or saleable art practice there is; or sticking to one’s individual preference in medium, style, technique and content – things which art markets may not embrace. It is for this reason that Artery Art Space – Manila’s newest artist-run alternative art space – came up with the Artery Mentorship Program (AMP).
Launched in late August 2014, this project allows young artists and new graduates to be mentored by prominent figures from the Philippines’ art scene about contemporary art production and exchange. AMP mentors include Leo Abaya, Catalina Africa, Clara Balaguer, Wendell Capili, Kiri Dalena, Lara de los Reyes, Tengal Drilon, Merv Espina, Arvin Flores, Ricky Francisco, Russ Ligtas, Dominic Mangila, Eva McGovern, Stephanie Misa, Sandra Palomar, Gary-Ross Pastrana, Sidd Perez, Ling Quisimbing, Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, Chitz Ramirez, Mark Salvatus, Mai Saporsantos, Mitch Shivers, Jay Ticar, Stephanie Victa and Jenifer K. Wofford.
Artery Art Space explains how they selected their 2014 mentees:
For the selection criteria, we emphasised that skill and academic attainment were not high on the priority list, rather, we wanted to work with young artists who harboured self-initiative and enthusiasm, who have intellectual and emotional maturity, and most of all, drive and ambition to succeed. After all, at the end of the day, nobody told them to make art but themselves.
Art Radar spoke to the young Filipino artists who were part of AMP 2014.
Having graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Gosiengfiao began her art journey by copying existing artworks and creating still life images as a childhood hobby. It was only during her junior year in college that she decided to become a practicing artist. It was also then that she started creating sculptural pieces out of trash, epoxy and resin as a response to the increasing urbanisation and commodification of the human body happening around her.
Asked what makes her take on these issues differently, Gosiengfiao comments:
I know a lot of other artists have also tackled these issues, but I think it’s my own voice, perception and experiences that make me different. Coming from a sheltered childhood and having studied in an all-girls’ school to live in the busy and chaotic world of the city makes me like an outsider – but I make that work for me. So, I think it’s my identity that makes me different and my process of treating art production as my escape/sanctuary adds to that.
In 2013, the artist won the Grand Prize (Sculpture Category) at the 46th Shell National Student Art Competition for her work Bukas Na Lata. Made of resin and found objects, this work tackles the same issues. She explains:
I feel compelled to react to my experiences of urbanity: traffic, congestion of structures and people, lack of the sky, and widespread detritus. I think my mind borders between fascination and rejection of these issues, which is why I’m perplexed as to how to (and if I should continue to) represent them with or without glorifying the problems. Right now, what I make [are] dystopian scenarios that play on forms, but somewhere along the way I’ve figured out that I want to do the opposite too and make utopian scenes.
Currently based in Manila, Gosiengfiao’s other art-related activities include illustrating, conducting painting workshops and murals. She sees herself also engaging in community-based art projects and cultivating new spaces for art appreciation and production in the future.
Chewing gum, human hair, eggs and vomit: these are just some of the unlikely objects that Lee has used in her art, which she considers her “mode of inquiry”. At present, she is investigating her own artistic process, coming up with video installations and large charcoal drawings that reveal her observations, conceptualising ideas, as well as the materials that directly or indirectly affect her art making.
Asked about how she views art-making and its relationship to the finished artwork, she explains:
I do think more about the process than the ‘product’, but I feel both merit equal importance because when there is a tangible or observable output, it contains within it the concept and the making of it… I personally think more about process because my art is concerned with investigation and inquiry. […] In placing the work in the context of a space where observers will come in, artistic decisions are made and editing is done, control is exerted upon how the work will appear, and so this in a way equalises the process and the product.
According to Lee, the unpredictability and fickleness of thought are important to her work, making her process instinctive rather than methodological like that of most artists.
It is important for me to be able to change my mind about what it is I’m doing and how I’m doing it. It’s important for me to be able to allow myself mistakes, and to fool and surprise myself, because I want the work to be capable of doing these things also. I care more about the asking of the question than the presentation of the answers.
Lee has been part of several group exhibitions in the country since her 2009 debut at National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ “Tagsibol” exhibition. In 2013, she became an exchange student at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts (major in Painting) from the University of the Philippines.
Ren Lopez III
For someone who had no art-making experience whatsoever before his college years, Lopez III’s artistic progress is notable. Conjoining installations, videos, drawing and writing, the usage of analogue materials and layering texts or images, he comes up with straightforward yet puzzling works that examine the highs and lows of technology entering the human sphere.
Acknowledging that technology aids the presentation of his art – and “keeping up with the common visual stimulus in culture in this generation” – Lopez III sets himself apart from the other artists that make use of technology by making sure that his pieces are not just works of spectacle.
To achieve this higher connection, Lopez III makes sure that every material he uses or the images and words he adds are related to the issue he’s addressing. He explains the criteria behind choosing media:
I set parameters which are dependent on the topic of the work – it helps me establish the context of the work in relation to the medium I am using.
No element from his installations or video works, therefore, exists as a filler.
After going through AMP, he sees himself possibly integrating more traditional art methods into his works. He points out, however, that he “cannot say any changes that I employed in my recent work are permanent, because for me it is an exploration.”
Lopez III graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, in 2014 and currently lives and works in Manila. He has been exhibiting at various local galleries since 2010.
Never without a set of colouring materials or an artsy project in mind as a young girl, Quinto knew from her childhood that she would become an artist. Her use of Crayola paints and pursuit of Art Attack projects led to her majoring in painting in college, and she eventually fell in love with three-dimensional works such as installations and ceramics in her third year:
I find it fascinating that you could go around or even be inside a 3D work, that there could be a lot of interesting perspectives that you could see when you go around the work.
Aside from this, she enjoys the challenge that comes with three-dimensional pieces. She explains what drew her to ceramics:
I really like the fragility of the material. […] I usually associate that characteristic with a lot of the deeply personal issues that I deal with, so I feel like the material and the subject just mesh well. Since I deal with my experiences with people in my works, I also associate that fragility with myself and other people, and how you should be careful in dealing with them. It’s quite easy to break people.
She received her training in ceramics from Katti Sta. Ana, Roberto Acosta and Xavier Mañosa.
Like many young female artists, themes of sexuality and identity are found in Quinto’s works. Now, however, the artist is perhaps more known for tackling depression, a theme which many audiences find too sensitive. Asked what moved her to explore this issue, she points out that she wanted to express what she was going through and challenge the notion that mental disorder is a taboo subject.
With that, some people may say that there are ‘moral issues’ with what I’m doing. Someone told me that artists tend to forget that we’re human first and artists second; although they think the other way around. I think that depression or bipolar disorders are such human aspects of ourselves… Being ‘flawed’ in that way makes us human, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Hereafter, Quinto plans to work with ceramics and photography, further exploring feminist and psychological issues, and perhaps go back to painting to discover her roots. She graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, in 2014. Her thesis, entitled Engaging Depressive Disengagement, was awarded the Outstanding Thesis Award and the U.P. College of Fine Arts Gawad Tanglaw award.
- Hide and seek: Filipino artist José Santos III illuminates the ordinary – in pictures – November 2014 – an enchanting new series of abstract works by Santos III meditates on the duality of interiority and exteriority and the nature of objecthood
- Demons, saints, penitents and pop: Filipino artist Ronald Ventura in New York – in pictures – September 2014 – Ventura traces a bloody history of faith and identity in a unique new series of oil paintings inspired by gory religious rites, pop culture and European Old Master paintings
- Contemporary art in Manila: Art Radar guide – August 2014 – Art Radar brings you its art city guide for Manila, Southeast Asia’s most progressive art hub
- Artist Gary-Ross Pastrana: Redefining the notions of what is Filipino – interview – May 2014 – Filipino artist taking part in “New Natives” in Hong Kong talks tabout his influences and his future plans
- Manila’s mean streets: 7 Filipino street artists – part 3 – May 2014 – the 3rd installment of Art Radar‘s feature on the Filipino Street Art Project, a transmedia project documenting street art
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on Filipino artists and the Manila art scene