Boom, Zoom, Pow, Art (The new Filipino art scene)

Boom, Zoom, Pow, Art (The new Filipino art scene)
By Walter Ang
Oct. 12, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Kiri Dalena, Mark Salvatus, Dina Gadia, Buen Calubayan,
Farley del Rosario and Lindslee, with curator Jay Pacena. 
The Filipino art scene is in the midst of a renaissance. Last year, Filipino artists set record highs in auctions abroad. Local galleries have been expanding and multiplying. This year saw the first-ever Manila Art Fair.

As part of this explosion, the Nokia and Inquirer Lifestyle Series will hold an exhibit of the country's "10 Most Exciting Young Artists" on October 28 at The Gallery of Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati.

The exhibit's curator, multimedia artist Jaime "Jay" Pacena II, says there is growing awareness of Filipino art and artists by collectors, and also awareness by the artists themselves of where their art is going.

"Filipino art is beginning to be recognized locally and internationally," he says. This is due in part to the unique forms and content that set apart Filipinos from other Asian artists.

Pacena notes that Filipino artists are open to new forms available to today's generation.

"Multimedia is part of this one big play now. Artists today explore different mediums, they don't use traditional forms. They break, reconstruct or go beyond the form. They explore different techniques and have new output," he says.

Award-winning artist Guillermo "Ige" Ramos, Cocoon magazine art director, concurs: "In the last five years, there's been a surge of creativity among young artists. Aside from using paint and canvas to express their ideas, they employ a gamut of other materials. Digital art and photography has opened new avenues. Film is dead, and the gazillion-gigabyte memory chip, which can store a multitude of images and sound bites, replaces it. Web design, animation, mangga, animé and flash animation are all evolving every second."

More critical, sensitive
As for subject matter, Pacena says: "Young artists today are more critical and more sensitive in choosing what and what not to show. More artists are now making statements. They have something to say and they want to be heard, whether about personal struggles, sacrifices, fantasies or personal ideologies, or with more general concerns like talking about the people, the institutions, the agencies, the government, the system, religion, or the absence of being."

"Content and substance is still king," Ramos declares. "Art can communicate and refuse to communicate. More complex themes are explored. There are no longer right or wrong answers, black and white opinions. The `moral/immoral' dichotomy is replaced by moral ambiguity. There are artists who make art for art's sake."

Continuing evolution
Pacena credits the continuing evolution of Filipino art, in part, to the openness of established artists in collaborating with up-and-coming artists.

"Some senior members of the art scene exchange ideas, methods and even process with the young ones. At the same time, young artists ask and question certain ideas," he says.

Schools, Pacena points out, also play a role.

"The development of the Filipino artist starts within the school. Institutions today give big importance to being at par with other schools outside our country. A lot of young artists today are also part of the faculty, honing new aspiring artists," he says.

Ramos says galleries and art spaces are also key in the art boom.

"Alternative art spaces are growing, away from shopping malls and back to the suburbs. Former warehouses and ancestral homes are now the preferred spaces," he says. "For example, Cubao Expo, a former cluster of shoe stores, is now abuzz with art spaces like galleries, performance spaces, screening rooms, coffee shops with open-mic poetry readings and musical jamming."

Impact and demand
"Young artists are in demand," internationally known sculptor Ramon Orlina said in Inquirer Lifestyle's 2008 yearend art forum. "There's a market for Philippine art in Hong Kong, Singapore and Asia in general. Now auction houses are looking for young artists because buyers are also very young."

(Orlina, along with Ramos, has been tapped to choose the "exciting young artists" who will join the Nokia-Inquirer exhibit.)

Pacena says: "Some of the artists who are really exciting with their form and content, old and new, are José Tence Ruiz, Karen Ocampo Flores, Noel Soler Cuizon, Norberto `PeeWee' Roldan, Ronald Ventura, Alfredo Esquillo, Tad Ermitaño, Wesley Valenzuela, Kawayan de Guia, Kiri Dalena, Buen Calubayan, Iggy Fernandez, Mark Salvatus, Lyra Garcellano, Leeroy New, Allan Balisi and Goldie Poblador.

"Their works are charged. They treat the viewer as intellectual people who will think and will savor the experience of looking, touching or even smelling and hearing their art. They are varied in their chosen subject matters, pero may pinaghuhugutan sila. You definitely see it in their works."

Voice and vision
"Before wars or revolutions happen, it appears as a prophecy in art," Ramos says. "Look at what young people are communicating now ? anarchy. All of these creative excursions and experiments have one thing in common: They are trying to find a voice and a vision that is unique and independent.

"Bucolic and social-realist themes persist to this day due to painting competitions sponsored by telephone-book companies and banks as part of their corporate social-responsibility agenda. These paintings end up as covers for phonebooks and annual reports. Nonetheless, these themes can be amplified by using new media and materials.

"Corporate entities should understand that the return on investment in art sponsorship is not measured by financial gain, but how their support of the arts elevates the spirit, culture and the taste of their audiences. If it's a major multinational company, it must adhere to its vision of innovation and multi- and transculturalism. That art should be brave and able to cross cultural boundaries. It should be innovative, provocative and stunning."

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