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Philippine representation at Art Jakarta


TWO Philippine galleries were present at Art Jakarta last week. Vinyl on Vinyl presented works by artist Terence Eduarte which had a personal kind of longing, while the works at the booth of The Drawing Room reflected pain that was a little more universal.

Mr. Eduarte, better known in the art scene as TRNZ, had his first taste of art through locally dubbed Japanese animé on TV in the 1990s. These weren’t the complicated flashy animé of the 2000s and beyond, but the simpler and quieter drawings of the late 1980s and ’90s. For his show at Art Jakarta, he went through his father’s photo albums of himself and his siblings and rendered them in that familiar animé style. “That became my bible for this show,” he said about his father’s albums. “This is the first time we’ve connected through my art, by using his photos and using it as a reference,” he said in English and Filipino. He told BusinessWorld that he was the only artistic member of the family, and at the same time, his family had more classical tastes in art. Furthermore, he said about his father, “We don’t talk a lot. We just grew that way. He’s not very talkative. Very formal.”

In these paintings, the artist is shown as a frowning boy after swimming, on a horse in Baguio, at a birthday party, and various other scenes from his childhood. Strangely enough, the very personal scenes and the private story behind it have found a connection with a foreign audience. The painting of him on a horse with its Philippine location was personal, and yet an Indonesian viewer had a similar memory. “The connections people form (with the pieces) are based on their own memories.”

He also found out a little bit about himself in this series: in previous work, he liked misplacing objects, like putting things on the heads of his subjects when they are not supposed to be there. In recreating these childhood memories, he saw a younger version of himself wearing cowboy hats and balloon animals, closing a loop in his work.

Vinyl on Vinyl co-director (and former model and racing driver) Gaby dela Merced discussed why they chose Mr. Eduarte for a solo show in Art Jakarta. “For me, his aesthetic and that certain sense of sentimentality with his works, I think would reciprocate well with the Indonesians.” On that note, she pointed to the differences between the artists in Manila and in Jakarta: “There’s a lot of rawness to our work,” she said, while with Indonesian artists, “They’re very much into craft.

“There’s a lot of similarities in terms of what we experience in society. There’s a relatable aspect to it. Yet our technique, our approach, is quite different.”

THE DRAWING ROOMWhile the work at Vinyl on Vinyl was relaxing, calming, and nostalgic, the works over at The Drawing Room were a little bit more stirring and sinister.

On the right were pieces by Ateneo Art Awards regular Rocky Cajigan (his most recent win was being shortlisted for this year’s Fernando Zóbel Prizes for Visual Art for his work Place of Origin). A member of an indigenous group in Bontoc, Mr. Cajigan’s triptych depicted grassland and the rich verdant rice fields of his hometown in the uplands. The middle piece of the triptych was a lush view in different shades of green, but the piece on the left showed a cinder block disturbing the scene. The piece on the right showed a bag of trash.

Nicole Decapia, Strategies Consultant for The Drawing Room, said that the artist wanted to show the encroachment of modernity and human activity in his pristine home. The cinder block, for example, is a recurring motif in his work, showing its use in the building of new homes in the countryside, but which is at the same time “dysphoric” in its appearance in such a place. “It’s as if we dominate nature, but we don’t,” said the consultant.

Artist Mark Justiniani achieved mainstream fame for his Infinity installations at Art Fair Philippines, and has also shown his work at the Philippine pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2019. For Art Jakarta, he stripped to the essentials with pastel on paper and a return to his social realism work in the 1980s. Striking was a mother and child piece, a popular motif in Philippine art, but the mother and child were depicted separately in the piece.

On the left of The Drawing Room’s booth were various tapestries by Cian Dayrit. One showed a resource map in the style of the 1500s, during the initial age of exploration and colonization. While these maps are usually shown with markers for gold mines, crops, and other treasure, Mr. Dayrit’s map was embroidered with foul images: dead bodies, toilets, dead trees, and other unpleasant things. Another tapestry showed the work of Dean Worcester, a scientist who was appointed Philippine Secretary of the Interior from 1901-1913, at the very height of the American colonization period in the Philippines. Mr. Worcester’s work presented an exoticized view of the Philippines, using primitivization and orientalism to justify the American colonial regime.

“All these have a similar theme,” said The Drawing Room’s Ms. Decapia, citing among them resistance, the exploration of colonial history, and modernization. Another work called Order of Things stood near the exit of Art Jakarta, showing mundane objects like jeepney signs elevated to iconic status by placing them on a pedestal.

“We’re both archipelagos, we go through similar strands of history. There are echoes of both of our histories in each other,” they said, citing Indonesia’s own former identity as the Dutch East Indies (not to mention a parallel dictatorship throughout the 1970s with Suharto and Ferdinand Marcos).

The strategies consultant spoke about how these similarities show differently in their art. For example, Indonesia threw off its yokes fairly recently: while Indonesian independence was declared by Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta in 1945, the country only became truly independent in 1949 after the Indonesian National Revolution. As for its dictator, they only shook him off in 1998 after he resigned due to unrest from the 1997 Asian financial crisis. “Here in Indonesia, it’s more difficult for people to really be so outspoken about their ideals,” said The Drawing Room’s Ms. Decapia. “The interest in this kind of art is growing, but it’s not there yet,” they said about collecting transgressive art in Indonesia. In comparison, discussing Filipino artists, “We are more outspoken, we’re noisy, we really talk about things that matter,” they said. However: “To quote Cian Dayrit… ‘Our chain is longer.’

“You get to think: are we being heard?” — Joseph L. Garcia

Joseph Emmanuel Garcia

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