MANILART is slowly becoming an annual part of my life now. And frankly, that’s a really healthy annual routine. For one, it is an awe-inspiring collection of work from all over the Philippines. Seeing all paintings and sculptures felt so rejuvenating. Another reason is that I get a perfect excuse to wear my work!
Kidding aside, I wasn’t an exhibitor this year. BUT! I did get to dress up one of the superwomen of the event. And that was as thrilling as being a part of the show itself!
She wanted a dress that’s her: A simple silhouette, a slimming black sheath, and an eye-catching detail. For the main theme decided to embrace something that’s uniquely Filipino – our very own tribal tattoo!
When the west came to the islands in the 1500s, they’ve seen our people sporting beautiful ink filling their entire bodies. The practice of tattooing had always been deeply rooted in the Visayan native culture. Men and women proudly wore their skin as status symbols both in religion and society, cosmetic and fashion statements. Moreso – a visual warning telling everyone of the number of people whose heads they’ve hacked off necks. These bamfs were endearingly dubbed by the
conquistadors peaceful visitors in their journals and books Pintados, lit meaning ‘the painted ones’ according to my common sense. After that, they went on to ‘buy’ them from their tribes to make them slaves and human specimens for display. Can you imagine? Actual people on exhibits because of their different way of life? Humanity. /eye rolls so hard it saw the ort cloud
Being of Visayan descent, I was compelled to push through with the theme no matter how short of time I had left. Because it is actually a theme I’ve dreamed of utilizing since forever. I’ve pitched this idea to a group project back in college (and we’ve created our own brand around it) but it wasn’t enough for me. It’s a concept so awesome, I had to use it again. True enough, this was the chance to do that. And the chance I took!
The dress was made of pure linen that had a very beautiful matte texture. Sooo refreshing to work with. It was expensive and luxurious – but worth it. That included the five packs of lint remover rolls because of the amount of cat hair the fibers can attract. The ‘tattoo’ was derived from a textbook illustration. We’ve decided that as respect to the art of Pintados inking, we shouldn’t make our own design and then call it ‘Pintados’. And I think that is the most fair decision to make for the dress’ detail. We’ve picked a simple design that meant ‘water lily’.
Madame Loste was so happy, it was contagious. It was all smiles throughout the night for moix. It has been a stressful event for her to organize, the least that I could do was to make one thing she wouldn’t have to worry about, right?
And you know the surprising part was? I’ve seen a familiar face I never thought I’d see again.
You’d think these pieces are paintings, but up-close they are lines made of precise placement of nail and yarn, thread, and wire tying up one whole picture. The gaps in between them are so finely spaced, they create the illusion of brush strokes on canvas but retain the personality and added planes that set it apart from a two-dimensional painting.
How we met more or less a decade ago actually ties up to the theme of my Manilart dress for Madame Loste: Pintados. Back in college, Govinda helped our college bunch come up with a brand surrounding that same concept:
TURNED OUT Govinda also played for a very unique band back then. That’s why he owned a lot of tribal drums and bells. The band was called Kadangyan, and they’ve fused Tribal and Rock to create a new sound. How cool is that? It’s an acquired taste, of course. But most of the stuff I like is, anyway. It piqued my interest merely listening to the idea of it, so I got a copy of their EP. To say their music is ‘interesting’ is an understatement. Appreciating music is always a subjective thing, true. Just that in my case, Kadangyan’s song brings me back to a time unblemished by the noise of today. It calls you to look back from where you came from and never forget who you are.
Designing the Pintados actually dress got me furiously listening to the Mandirigma EP. And I love their music to bits. Sadly, I’m not a top listener of theirs according to Last.fm. Seems other people are more obsessed than I am *eye roll* STILL, YOU KNOW? Embrace the roots! Have a listen – this is my favorite Kadangyan song: Anito. (Lit meaning: God) It has short lyrics, but so profound.
“Kung lakad mo ay sobrang matulin, ‘pag natinik ka ay malalim.” (If you gait swiftly, the thorn pierces deeply)
In the end, Kadangyan slowly faded over the years. Their beloved Bassist Agit had been one of Yolanda/Typhoon Haiyan’s victims when it devastated Leyte. On top of hearing about my mother’s hometown getting wrecked and animals here and there were starving to death, this news was one of the saddest ones I’ve heard in 2013. After that, the members went their separate ways. Then again, their legacy lived on. Govinda told me the seeds they’ve planted are turned to a good harvest. And it did, you know? The Philippines is so ~western~ and everyone just turns their back on their own people’s history so easily at the taste of a better life in other countries. But with their music, each one it touched will carry that seed of identity. I doubt they’d be the same. Realizing it was all about that, Kadangyan’s silence isn’t in vain after all. Because their music still resonates.
It was wonderful experiencing this weird and sweet coincidence, with the Pintados theme tying together a series of events and people surfacing altogether in one event. Ah, well~ You know what they say. Retrocausal Quantum theory is always at work. Nevertheless, the little dweeb in me is giddy. AND thankful.
This year’s Gala night was pretty packed than last year, I’d give you that. With the amount of people I’ve smuggled in to see my friends’ artworks and solo shows, I hardly had the chance to look at the works myself! So naturally, it called for another day of gallery browsing galore.
The best decision I’ve made is actually joining one of the Art Tour with my Saturdate gal that took us all around the hall. And all of a sudden, the shrunken SMX Convention center from the crowded gala night grew bigger! Seeing all artworks in different media and forms took me back to my college days of taking art appreciation field trip our art history class. It felt no different from being a wide-eyed teen at the back of the line, wishing I’d be like the artists one day.
And you know what? It never really occurred to me how much I appreciate sculptures until now, actually. I’ve always been a paper sort of medium person (except of course when they get translated to a pattern and fabric for sewing!) I admire sculptors. Like a lot. It’s an art form where there is no room for mistakes most of the time. Especially when working with a material that doesn’t allow such, lest you repeat the whole thing (or portion). It also takes patience, lots of resourcefulness, mastery of material, and right timing – including managing your work process. It was just unimaginable for a spectator like me to put my feet in their shoes.
I’ve stared at these sculptures when by chance, I took pictures of them at the opening night. Something about them was very familiar. Even though I didn’t get a chance to check the labels, I was pretty darn sure it was from an artist whose work process I’ve witnessed before. Checked the label on Saturday, and lo and behold. They ARE from Carlito Ortega! (Or Carlo, as he asked us to call him).
One of the most eye-catching display was the 13th Annual Sculpture Review’s and its kinetic woodwork hanging at the walls. The group was lucky enough to have the artist, Cris Equaras explain to us himself how his works worked!
Here are my other favorite sculptures from the show~
And never forget the paintings!
Per usual, Gromyko Semper‘s artworks quickly became a crowd favorite! His one-man show ‘Garden at the Edge of the Road‘ speaks to me in a beyond the beyond the beyond level. I’ve always been an advocate of saving the planet and all that jazz because well–if we don’t? His paintings are bound to happen. Of course they are beautiful to look at, but look closer and you will see the ugly message. We only have but ONE garden. It is irreplaceable. Years of searching the galaxies for a planet exactly like the Earth have proven futile. We are that rare. And once it dies, we will never find anything like it. At this point in time? The death of the planet is quickly becoming irreversible. The paintings convey such message of urgency for this generation to look around us and start taking care of the precious planet we belong to.
But the painting that made me lose my shit? These.
I NEED THESE IN MY WALLS. BUT OF MY BABIES.
The best part about these paintings is that they are portraits of cats resembling the very common Puspin/Philippine cat. YES. Not a long-haired over-groomed more-expensive-than-your-entire-equity-looking feline princess on a pedestal. The artists chose the most ordinary kitties as subjects, just like the ones eating the trash outside your house.
You can fawn over all the cat breeds of the world all you want, but honestly, cats are cats. Flash news: Having a purebred doesn’t make you special. Without the cosmetic genetic engineering humans performed on them, they are essentially the same. These paintings reminded me (and hopefully everyone) of that fact. The most ordinary cats like Primo, and this orange Puspin can be the stars and Kings of our lives, and not just the purebreds we elevate so needlessly when given the chance. They are all cats. And they are all hungry. We have to look past their appearances and length of fur and just give them the hell homes, protect them when even when we can’t from the abomination that are animal abusers, and feed them as much as possible because they only actually exist because we wanted them to exist. Domestic cats are not natural. We brought them to their painful life in the streets. Therefore, it is our duty to get them out of it.
To finally put an end to my ramblings, here’s a random group photo. The incomplete Mad Tinkers group. We’re planning a group show next year. I’d have to admit: at this point, my 2018 is looking pretty tight as it is so I’m a little iffy if I can make it. But as it is, I’ll prolly just put my hair in a bun and jump into the abyss closed eyes. Hah!