Never have I imagined myself being an exhibitor in Manilart. Ever. Maybe because its all about “artworks” – the term I’d normally associate with paintings, sculptures, installations, and similar things that would fall under the category. There is after all, a fine line between “art” and “fashion design” – even “couture” or “avant garde” if you may. But after eight long years of being one of the biggest and leading fairs in the country, Manilart’s evolving with the times, or so I’ve heard (an actual Manilart virgin here!)
This year’s exhibition had something a little different: Pink walls, towering pastries, bleeding roses, politically correct potions, a fabulous royal wardrobe and more. Endearingly dubbed “The Madtinker’s Tea Party”, this collection of a wide range of pieces showed the art-loving public the wonders in lost minds. Curated by a respected contamporary painter, Mr. Gromyko Semper under Gallery Nine, a conglomeration of artisans and painters (including yours truly) were tasked to create a piece for each character in Lewis Caroll’s beloved classic, Alice in Wonderland attending Mr. Hatter’s tea party – but y’know – with a mad twist!
Mine is a design for the royal wardrobe: a gown for the Queen. Originally, it was meant for the Queen of Hearts, specifically (as I’ve previously advertised in social media) but later on assigned to the Red Queen. I won’t bore you with formal information anyway. You can read that in other newspaper articles. Let’s get onto the actual happenings!
From the sketch, to the patterns, to the sewing, this gown was a total adventure to make. Including getting a minor surgery and a really bad flu, I managed to push it through. It took longer than expected to finish, but it is here. My most detailed work to date: The Queen’s Robe!
And you’ve guessed it. The blonder hair and the blue dress was me making some paandar moves coming to the exhibit as Alice for the heck of it. I’ve always wanted to dress up and wear my own creations to special events like weddings and gala nights like these. More often than not though, my days are packed with finishing my clients’ gowns that I only get to do mine a few hours before the big day. And this dress…is another case of that, ladies and gents.
Here’s the roster of wonderful artists making up this group with links to their portfolio, or social accounts. Yes, I am a very good stalker – but not good enough to complete it. (fellow artists, please advise if you’d want another link!)
Camille Dela Rosa
Cari Dawn Cornejo
Herminio Tan Jr.
I cannot stress over how stressful it was to actually get into the entrance of SMX. Hello, two-hour Grab ride? It wasn’t only raining, we also went around like four times in the area just to navigate through BGC’s complicated (and congested) road. But I think it was all worth it. Even if I had so much work to do including the dress I was wearing the next day (HAHA), I was so glad I stayed. Meeting the co-exhibitors for the first time was the most refreshing experience I’ve had in so long.
It was an evening filled with unusual topics. Instead of just fanning over manga and graphic novels, everyone was discussing the dynamics of the sceneries and panels, how everything is layouted, how the story is conveyed. Those details usually go unnoticed. It was these kinds of conversations that I miss having. Sometimes, I think that when I talk about criticism and overanalyzing creative works in whatever form (music, anime, movies, novels, etc) to anybody, it feels as if I’m talking about things that aren’t necessary. Often times, I am even shut down, getting told that I can’t enjoy anything. It’s funny how in this particular crowd, it was natural – a totally new feeling for me. Even analyzing each other’s work was cool. The lines, the swirls, the colors, each stroke – it had meaning, relating to the story of how an artwork was made.
At around one (in the morning, the next day) we were just halfway setting up the stuff. Time went by swiftly though. It was a lot of fun making card houses, cutting miles and miles of red velvet, putting venus flytraps in vases, concocting potions, and painting the town pink. We were pretty much the only gallery left in the hall at around 2 AM.
But for what it’s worth, they were able to finish setting up right before Manilart open its doors to the press and media. At around eight in the morn, the sign was finally up!
Aaaand I was also getting up to finish my dress.
The night was graced by the presence of VIPs. Amongst them were Mrs. Cayetano and Mrs. Bato. Other international political figures were also there (the Ambassador of Armenia), and many more. Apart from derping out with Iso around the open bar by Don Papa Rum (damn, those cocktails were great!) I also learned new things about the art buying culture in the Philippines, particularly in the metro. I got my foot dipped into it a little, of course, when I gave rights to Gallery Nine into selling my gown. But from what I’m told, I can safely say it’s a totally different world in fashion. I’d like to be able to crossover both dimensions from time to time, and there’s so much more ahead of me to learn. Instead of choosing just one and trashing the other, I thought it was great to have many options laid in front of me.
It was also a wonderful experience to finally get to see the result of all the Madtinkers’ collective effort the past nights and months, right next to each other to form this insane tea party. Our curator was particularly happy at how each piece turned out that it overwhelmed him. There had also been discussions of another show next year because of how each artist performed. It’s exciting!
Here’s Mr. Semper with a word about our show:
It wasn’t long enough until photo-ops were taken by the gown. Firstly by me, then the parentals, and then me obliging Mr. Semper to join in. They were wonderful photos, because they are taken with most of the people who have helped me accomplish the gown. Although I do wish someone else was there to be in photos with the gown too, because he had helped me in many ways than one in this accomplishment. Also, I look pretty in 99% of the photos he takes, even if that is a photo of me shoving food into my mouth. Maybe next year, when Nursing isn’t too demanding in Perth. (sobs)
A little later, Mrs. Cayetano and Mrs. Bato did the honors of cutting the ribbon to formally open our already open booth as the upper half of my body floated about in the background.
I do believe the bold setup of Booth B3 wasn’t just the wow factor that earned the media’s attention, or the reason why it easily became a crowd favorite. The way the artworks were presented was artful in itself. After more than 12 hours of setup time, the collectors and VIPs were able to enjoy the different aspects of the exhibition: the whimsical, the dark, and the grotesque.
The first corner was heavily inspired of the whimsical facade of Alice in Wonderland with pink-striped walls, playfully laid out (insanely cool) tea party items, colorful tea spells, and everywhere else riddled with elements and symbolism taken from the book.
Meanwhile, the darker chamber seems more shocking. You will be welcomed by an altar of five small sculptures, each seeming to have a life of their own – only imprisoned inside a glass and cannot escape. Mirrors and lamp sculptures were there as guards. The shadows and the green mist give out the feeling of eeriness, as if to tell you it was mistake coming in there. The last corner displayed the pieces bathing in blood, while a wall as black as my soul featured the Wonderland’s royalty, along with its horrifying creatures.
So feast your eyes over the only presentable photos I took. These are not everything, though. There are more artworks I failed to not blur.
MANILART ended way too soon, but the tea party continued to Megamall’s ART CENTER, where chosen works were displayed until 22 October. It was great. More chances to take better photos!
Overall, the experience of prticipating in an event as HUGE as this was more than exhilarating. It was all kinds of humbling, pressuring to do up to par, growing up, and bettering myself. And I think I benefited a great deal from it.
In the period of consignment, the dress didn’t get to sell. But that was totally okay. It never occurred to me that not selling is failure, versus it being so in the fashion world. In fact, crossing over markets is something that allowed me to evaluate the differences between the two. There was comfort in knowing that you are not there to sell and fail if you don’t. The success was already being able to deliver (and believe me, it was one hell of a challenge to deliver). But moreso, the journey to completing the gown itself was already the gold at the end of the rainbow.
As the group’s ‘principal’ (haha) Madame Amy Wong Loste told us: “You should have something left for yourself”, and she was right. In my daily life as a designer of affordable gowns, I do not have a lot of freedom. I always have to find it within boundaries and get it to stretch as far as it can reach – that’s always the challenge. This time, I only had myself to please. And it felt so great and refreshing.
MEDIA MENTIONS AND FEATURES
- Inquirer: Homage to Orlina’s Breakthrough Art
- CNN Philippines: In a dynamic time for Philippine art, can ManilArt keep up?
- MBLife: Four Wonderful things that defined Manilart 2016
- Manila Bulletin: A Little Manilart Appreciation
- Interaksyon: Art in the Time of ‘Tukhang’
- Philstar Global: Surreal, Erotic, Dreamy, Zany Art
- Lifestyle Asia: The Luxury Issue (October 2016)