29th August marks National Heroes' Day in the Philippines, a day that begged a question to be asked: what does it really mean to be a hero?It is one of those age-old, annoyingly open-ended questions in life - one at which you sigh in embarrassed exaspiration if it ever passes
Stories of Dreams and Realities
Please refer to the exhibition catalogue to find this collection of works produced by contemporary and eclectic Filipino artists, assembled by the Drawing Room in Manila, exhibited in the heart of Mayfair at the Rossi & Rossi Gallery (June-July).
One glance at the collection is all it takes to confirm that Filipino art of today has reached new heights of expression, extending far beyond the cliched messages usually decorated in the red, blue, yellow and white colours of the flag.
Martin Clist, co-ordinator at Rossi & Rossi shares his impressive knowledge of the artists and their works (paintings, sculptures and installations) with my friends and I as we look over each artwork. Renowned artist Alfredo Alquilizan’s ‘Landscape Painting’ is in fact made up of one painting (not several paintings) that he had bought, cut up and framed individually. There are suddenly 40 or so different scenes, 40 or so different stories for the viewer to imagine.
Troy Ignacio’s paintings are sinister and not obviously beautiful of course, but the ‘ugliness’ and the sense of poverty and illness is something that is still relatable. I snort appreciatively at Jose Legaspi’s painting which depicts a man glaring out at the viewer – holding excrement in his right hand. Until your attention is drawn to what he is holding in his hand, the painting is normal, though it is anything but that. Nothing, as they say, is as it seems.
A gleaming steel installation (Lirio Salvador) of spoons and cogs is hung on a wall. It is a reinvention of material and purpose: an intricate, decorative steel guitar connected to an amp which you can pluck at!
Martin wonders out loud about the name of the exhibition: ‘Stories of Dreams and Realities’; I agree with the choice of the title. The paintings and installation that I’ve highlighted above are just my personal favourites, but each of the works in the exhibition tells a unique story of its own. There will be more than one artwork which reminds you of something familiar you’ve experienced before, but one you cannot for the life of you describe or recall with sharp clarity. Was it a memory or something of a dream? The choice of artworks on display are expertly chosen in a way which expresses an incomplete journey of a dream or reality.
I remember how self-fulfilling looking at art can be, how much I appreciate a form of expression that makes up for when one is lost for words. Although it is a private experience, it is great to share with others. The innate dedication in the artist and his/her art to empower the observer to imagine and create is selfless.
Most of the artwork from ‘Stories of Dream and Realities’ has been sold to both Western and Asian customers, awakening the world to contemporary Philippine art – an international success. We leave the gallery in hope that Filipino art continues to arrive to London.
When I announced my plans to study in the Philippines to my parents, the shift of their instinctive feelings of concern to excitement took agonizingly longer than expected. A fortnight before my departure – this time right on cue – the parents began to pile on bizarre pearls of