Bea Alcala’s new pointillist paintings are on view at Manila-based Tin-Aw Art Gallery.

Known to sculpt outlandish and seemingly viperous creatures, Filipino artist Bea Alcala surprisingly turns to painting for her first solo exhibition entitled “Constellate”. Art Radar spoke to the artist to find out more.

Bea Alcala, ‘Dahlia 2’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Bea Alcala, ‘Dahlia 2’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Even if more and more oeuvres nowadays feature the development of more than just one art form, there is still that element of surprise when an artist strays away from his tried and tested practice. Such is the case for Filipino artist Bea Alcala, who for her much-awaited solo show, chose to present paintings rather than her signature critter sculptures. “Looking at it things practically, I couldn’t afford to do sculptures for a solo show,” notes the young artist, whose work ever since she was an arts student always entailed serial production. “But the decision to paint is not just because of economical reasons. I really felt that I missed a step.”

By “step” she means engaging in two-dimensional art, which if we were to look at the body of work of sculptors, usually belong to the early stages of their careers. She points out:

Yes, to go from three-dimensional art to two-dimensional art seems that I’m doing the opposite, but to go back is important for me. I can’t find it in me to just jump over.

Prior to working on “Constellate” she seriously immersed herself in drawing, and what came out were 200 works on paper for her month-long residency in Thailand. “My drawings and paintings also have to do with me wanting to expand how people perceive me as an artist,” she adds.

Bea Alcala, ‘Flowering Tea’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Bea Alcala, ‘Flowering Tea’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Having been part of several group shows and captured people’s eyes with her candy-coloured yet lethal-looking sculptures, our subject inevitably has been stereotyped as a one-trick pony. And now that she has proven that the label does not apply to her, there are those who feel that the transition is too random or far-off from her practice. “Pointillism was also present in my sculptures, if you would recall,” she defends.

Jumping-off Point

While the use of pointillism is evident in both her three-dimensional and two-dimensional pieces, viewers seem to overlook this due to the difference in energy. If Alcala’s sculptures are porous, dangerous-looking and display actions of biting and stinging, her paintings in “Constellate” are soothing and bring viewers to a state of meditation.

Bea Alcala, ‘Mahogany’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Bea Alcala, ‘Mahogany’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Asked if this transition has anything to do with personal experiences, the female artist confirms that the sculptures were developed at a time of anxiety. Alcala share:

In college, I strongly felt that society was always rushing, and that had a big impact on me. I’d have anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep at night even if I did so much work in the afternoon. My body would always be exhausted, but my mind would just stay awake. I really wasn’t functioning well.

“I represented my anxiety with monsters,” she spells out:

Because monsters, throughout history, were used to warn. Monsters were signs of the times that something wrong was happening.

Bea Alcala, ‘Sakura Petals’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Bea Alcala, ‘Sakura Petals’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

How she got from moulding monsters to painting calming flora had to do with her self-rehabilitation. After her university years, she got into yoga, running and journaling to address the anxiety attacks.

“And, with yoga came reading about the beliefs that came with it. There, for example, was Buddhism, and for a time, I remember during my rehabilitation getting into physics as well,” recalls Alcala. Slowly, the rush around her was silenced, and she, as a result to all the new things she’s been exposed to, began to find the spiritual with the scientific.

The artist articulates, revealing why she chose to adapt pointillism:

This exhibition began with the premise that all matter is made out of atoms,” “I thought that when you figure out the composition of things around you, many things would change – how you look at the world will change!

Alcala continues, “And if we were made with the same things as plants, then why is there such a strong notion that we are more superior to plants?” Here, we see that “Constellate” is an invitation to view the world through the artist’s eyes.

Bea Alcala, ‘Neoregelia’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Bea Alcala, ‘Neoregelia’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Processes, Pointillist Figures

If monster sculptures were a result of a chaotic atmosphere and her pointillist works a result of calmer state of mind, does it follow that her art-making process was different? “When I was drawing, I thought of doing the reverse – to do things instinctually instead of planning each step, which is what I did with my sculptures due to their composite nature. I think I carried that [approach] over to my paintings.”

Though Alcala had photos (she has made it a habit to take photos of flowers and bark textures from the different places she visits) to guide her, when it came to the actual painting, she’d allow herself more freedom. She was not strict about following the elements she initially visualised, and the colours, movements and parts of the plant to be emphasised: “Mine still reaches an imaginary state, despite the photo reference.”

Bea Alcala, ‘Dried Leaf’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Bea Alcala, ‘Dried Leaf’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18 in. Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery.

Regarding which pointillist figure she identifies most with, she answers none for they all have a different objective. She share:

The artist that comes to mind right now is Yayoi Kusama, but she’s not a pointillist. But I do understand how the making of dots can be therapeutic, which she expressed. And how dots could lead one to the realization of the cosmos. I may have reached those points too, but we had different ways of getting there.

Javelyn Ramos

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“Constellate” by Bea Alcala is on view until 6 April 2018 at the Tin-Aw Art Gallery, Upper Ground Floor of Somerset Olympia Bldg., Makati Avenue cor. Sto. Tomast St., Makati City, 1225 Philippines.

Related Topics: Filipino artists, painting, gallery shows, events in Manila

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Brittney

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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