Work-in-Progress

Anting-Anting

“Masasabi na ang Infinito Dios o ang Nuno (katutubong Bathala ng mga Tagalog) ay ang henyo o galing ng mga Pilipino na napasok sa bato o anting-anting, na kailan man ay hindi nakapamulaklak at nakapanaig dahil sa kahirapan at kawalan ng kapangyarihan.”
– Nenita Pambid, “Anting-Anting: O Kung Bakit Nagtatago sa Loob ng Bato si Bathala”

I grew up listening to stories about anting-antings, sacred amulets that gave the wearer powers and protection. In movies, the actor Ramon Revilla popularized the idea of the anting-anting. I saw the old Ramon Revilla flicks on afternoon TV after coming home from school. There was Nardong Putik, the hoodlum turned folk hero in Revilla’s movies who became invisible when in contact with mud. I remember Kapitan Inggo, Kumakain ng Bala who made snacks of bullets. There were stories that you had to stand underneath a banana blossom (puso ng saging) at night while waiting for it open and eject a droplet of magical juice. The supplicant must catch the droplet in the mouth to receive magical powers.

My grandmother gave me a rosary and told me to keep it close like a sacred amulet. She had an old prayer book bound in black cloth, pages yellowed and smelling of age. And I imagined it to be an object of power, like an ancient book of spells. I took it to school and kept it in my pocket and I imagined it had magic.

In Quiapo, vendors sell amulets beside the Catholic Church. Supplicants touch the statues of saints with their handkerchiefs and rub it on their bodies as a kind of benediction.

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The Filipino revolutionary Macario Sakay famously wore a vest with inscriptions as an anting-anting to ward of danger and harm. It didn’t work though; he was hanged by the Americans.

The idea of magical talismans permeates Filipino popular culture, even in our superheroes. Whereas, American superheroes were born out of science experiments, many Filipino superheroes possess magical objects that grant them powers. The superheroine Darna, who in her civilian guise is a crippled girl named Narda, accesses her powers by swallowing a rock that fell out of the sky. Then there’s Captain Barbell who transforms from his scrawny alter ego by lifting a magic barbell.

In the mythological landscape of the Philippines, it seems you can possess God through objects.

While preparing for my painting “Bathala sa Bato” (24 x 48 in., Acrylic on Canvas), I turned to Nenita Pambid’s book “Anting-Anting: O Kung Bakit Nagtatago sa Loob ng Bato si Bathala”

Scholarly research into anting-antings can be difficult to find. That’s why Pambid’s book is a gem.

Although it could have greatly benefitted from better production values and colored photos, it remains an interesting glimpse into the world of these mysterious amulets.

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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.

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.

 

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.

Working through it

There are days when no idea comes through the door. Or even if it does, it feels forced and unnatural. But I suppose experience will teach you to patiently stick to routines and sit everyday in front of the table or easel or whatever and work through it. Sometimes when the ideas do come, they come in torrents and you have to be prepared to ride it out when it does.