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Melt

Books are receptacles of stories. They’re like sculptures of information – words and stories made into tangible objects. Books are also metaphors for people’s identities and memories. The pieces revolve around the idea of the breakdown of these identities and the slow dissolution of memories. Specific stories and personalities dissolve and run together. Singular identities lose cohesion until they become anonymous. The books try to depict that moment before all identity and story dissolves. In that moment, the object is in flux and becomes something new and different.

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Parallel Universes

“String theory envisions a multiverse in which our universe is one slice of bread in a big cosmic loaf. The other slices would be displaced from ours in some extra dimension of space.”
– Brian Greene

“If a coin comes down heads, that means that the possibility of its coming down tails has collapsed. Until that moment the two possibilities were equal.  But on another world, it does come down tails. And when that happens, the two worlds split apart.”
― Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

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Last month, Sergio Bumatay and I had our second two-man show, this time held at Galerie Stephanie. Serj and I admittedly approach things differently, so coming up with a common subject matter was challenging. In the end, we realized that our work and our background in image making ran parallel to each other. Both us are heavily into illustration and visual narratives. In a sense, our bodies of work were like parallel universes to one another.

The Stuff of Science Fiction

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I grew up reading science fiction and comic books. Science Fiction (or speculative fiction) has always been a home of weird ideas about the future. But as much as they talk about the next step in human evolution, SF also talks about the present, filtered through the lens of scientific allegory.

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Many of the science fiction pulp magazines and comic book stories of the past are populated with characters whose origins stories were borne out of exploding planets and radioactive contaminants. Their covers have their own instantly recognizable visual iconography. In a way, these images are no less rigid than Christian iconography found in altars and religious icons.

Pulsars and Space Jesus

Having grown up Catholic, religious iconography is part of my visual landscape. And these images are not only confined to churches – they’re everywhere from public transportation to fashion. So I guess, that informs a lot of what I do.

In coming up with images for the exhibit, I wanted to use the theme of “parallel universes” to talk about personal relationships filtered through science fiction iconography. In fiction and in art, we can talk about exploring time and space, but in the end, these journeys are about exploring and understanding ourselves and each other.


 Mobius

“Identity is an assemblage of constellations.” – Anna Deavere Smith


Black Hole

“Inside a black hole time stops altogether.
Whether or not this theory will ever be proved,
I’m moved to believe this would be the perfect place to love someone.”
– Shane Koyczan, Tomatoes

In my third novel there is an actual black hole that swallows everything you love.
– Jonathan Lethem


Orbit

“Within his orbit, I was nothing but a flat noodle. And I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”
– Dee Lestari, Rectoverso


Our Strange Gravities

“Sometimes I think gravity may be death in disguise. Other times I think gravity is love, which is why love’s only demand is that we fall.”
― Shaun David Hutchinson, We Are the Ants

“What is love if not the gravity of souls?”
― Courtney M. Privett, Shards of Chaos


Collaboration

For our collaborative piece, Serj and I worked on a quadtych, sharing a single horizon line.

Shoutout to our curator Ricky Francisco and Galerie Stephanie’s Abby Teotico for helping with the birthing pains of this show. I don’t have a photo of them, so here’s a picture of Sergio and myself, with a cameo appearance by Abi Dayacap.


I am currently represented by Galerie Stephanie. The gallery is located at Unit 1B Parc Plaza Bldg., 183 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City. For inquiries, contact the gallery at (02) 709-1488 or at inquiry.galeriestephanie@gmail.com.

 

INK on Paper

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Cover by Robert Alejandro

Our collaboration with Fedrigoni Asia arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s an artbook / catalogue featuring the various special papers Fedrigoni offers.

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All artworks contain or feature different paper elements.

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Art by Abi Goy

Rommel Joson

Art by Rommel Joson

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Art by Sergio Bumatay III

This collaboration was made possible through our friends from Fedrigoni Asia. You can visit their facebook page here. Fedrigoni papers are distributed in the Philippines by Prestige Paper Products.

Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Writing Competition

Rommel Joson Contest Piece (Small)

The Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS) will be launching another edition of the Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Writing Competition this year. I’m honored to have my painting chosen as the contest piece for this edition of the competition. The contest uses artworks as the inspiration or basis for all story submissions. This time around, the stories will be based on my painting. When a story is chosen, I will be illustrating the entire book based on the winning entry.

CANVAS actively promotes Philippine art and culture through exhibitions and collaborations with contemporary artists. One of its chief advocacies is the promotion of reading and literary in the Philippines. The stories and children’s books published by CANVAS are eventually given for free to children of distressed communities around the Philippines. Its goal is to provide 1 million books for 1 million children, and with each new CANVAS book, the organization draws closer to that goal.

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CANVAS contest poster

The deadline for submission of entries is on October 16, 2015; Friday, 5:00 p.m. (Manila time). Details about the contest and how to enter can be found on Canvas’s blog or at their facebook page here. All inquiries should be directed at CANVAS since I’m only doing the paintings and I have no hand whatsoever with the rules.

Pictures and Words

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My friends and I gave a talk at the Philippine Literary Festival held at Raffles Makati last August 30, 2015. With me in the panel were Liza Flores, Ray Sunga, and Sergio Bumatay III. We were a bit surprised by the turnout; we actually expected maybe ten attendees tops.

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Liza Flores gave an introduction about our organization Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan and talked about her process for her recent book “My Big Sister Can See Dragons” written by Rocky Sanchez Tirona and published by Canvas. The book’s development underwent the usual process that a children’s book goes through in the Philippines, wherein a publisher commissions an illustrator to provide images for an existing story. Liza’s illustrations for the book were all large scale papercuts mounted on wood. During the book’s launch, the illustrations were exhibited at the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum.

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Sergio Bumatay talked about out his process for his book “May Darating na Trak Bukas” (literally translated as “a truck will arrive tomorrow”) written by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and published by Adarna House. Serj’s experience on the book was a bit different since it didn’t originate from a previously written text. Instead, Serj was asked to develop several studies that can serve as inspiration for a new story. From the studies, Adarna House chose one image for Virgilio Almario to base his text on.

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Ray Sunga narrated his personal experiences in being a children’s book illustrator, as well as his process, and his inspirations. He gave insights into what we as illustrators experience in the Philippines (notably how you can’t live on illustrating children’s books alone).

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I talked about my research on word and picture interactions in picture books as well as my learnings from a writers and illustrators workshop I attended in Bintan, Indonesia (more about this in a coming blog post). The point of my presentation was underscore our role as co-storytellers in picture books, a fact that many in the local industry may have glossed over because of the preeminence of the purely written text as primary sources of stories.


The idea of teaching visual storytelling and visual literacy in general seems to be in its nascent stages in the Philippines. Personally, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that parents shy away from stories that are purely pictorial or at least with very few words. I don’t have the facts as to how visual literacy is being taught in Philippine schools nowadays, but I hope illustrators will have a greater role in shaping the conversation in the future.

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Silent Voices: Book Assemblages

Art Fair Philippines 2015 is happening in 9 days as I write this. I’m part of Canvas Gallery‘s Libro Exhibition, a group exhibit which features artworks inspired by books. I decided to make new book assemblages as my contribution to the show.

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I have eight new pieces ready for exhibition. Here are some works-in-progress.

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I sculpted different faces out of apoxie clay.

 Drawn elements on the faces.

Book Assemblage Work-in-Progress

Book Assemblage

Art Fair Philippines is happening on February 5-8, 2015 at The Link carpark, Makati Avenue, Makati City.