The anticipated contemporary art event of the year takes over a new space at Ayala Triangle Gardens and centers playful Filipino sensibility for its first physical exhibition since 2020.
Words by Pio Angelo Ocampo. Photos by Art Fair Philippines and Art+ Magazine.
Presenting today’s arts ecosystem through a hybrid experience, Art Fair Philippines merges elements from last year’s Metaverse with live venues at the Ayala Triangle Gardens and at the locales of the fair’s exhibitors. The fair’s team also launched sections and programs its yearly patrons are familiar with— projects, photo, film, residencies, talks, tours, open studios, 10 days of art, and the augmented reality (AR) art trail. And with forty-six exhibitors from home and abroad, the fair continues to serve its mission as a platform that showcases Philippine art as among the most exciting in Southeast Asia.
Nestled within the height and space of a new venue, exhibitions in this year’s ArtFairPH/Projects are set up in a way curator Norman Crisologo describes as a dinner table, where its configuration allows the artworks to seemingly have a conversation. Each work is there and has something to say, and it is up to the spectator to navigate the tensions and interact with them. “While I did not specifically look out for a common theme (as my governing principle is to showcase excellent work by artists at any point in their career),” writes author and poet Carlomar Daoana on the Projects, “what emerged was an emphasis on what I could only describe as barok: the deliberately ugly, the seemingly spontaneous, the recklessly experimental, laden with the unique Filipino sensibility. Humor, for instance, runs through most of the works.”
The Tagalog word barok, while originating from the ornate and ostentatious Baroque period of art history, highlights a distinct quality of contemporary art in the Philippines— art that is untamed and is capable of smearing bright colors on any issue at hand; may that be from a perspective of an individual or a collective. Within the context of our country, being described as barok comes at the expense of having to speak many tongues in a post-colonial society. Being barok means one has survived. And being a Filipino barok artist means one has the capability to wield the visual language of art to survive.
Contemporary artists and their work mirror the increasingly capricious tensions our world faces. In a conversation with Art Plus Magazine, Cebuano artist Wyndelle Remonde recounts how the need to survive prompted his art and vice versa: “As a university student, I needed to work to support my own studies. At night, I work and in the morning I study.” Wyndelle then alludes to the origins of a recurring character in his works, Juan Kugihan (Juan Masipag), a carabao in anamorphic form. “I saw myself in this carabao, an animal that is common in my province, an incessant worker I relate to.”
This iconography marks what Wyndelle ascribes as stamina that is characteristic to a Filipino. At once surreal and self-aware, the roots of his experimental style grew from his father who was a traditional stencilist, then grew to expand his practice by referencing street art, silkscreen craft, graphic design, and animation. “The ideas behind my works are very autobiographical”, Wyndelle adds. The artist further considers himself as an individual responsible to the world around him, especially to his community in Argao, Cebu, “everything I create is based on personal experiences. For 5 years, every concept I had came from my daily life. And in my understanding, my experience is not unique, and I’m sure my work can serve as a public diary where people can relate.”
In his Projects exhibition titled “Aftermath”, Wyndelle presents works rendered through the lens of a witness and survivor of recent tragedies— the havoc caused by the global pandemic and typhoon Odette, specifically in his hometown. His exhibit showcases a stubborn type of courage; a richness in form, color, and contrast brought about by a compilation of stark experiential imagery; extending powerful visual insights in the middle of communal loss, catching the viewer off-guard, confronted by the artist’s thoughts and emotions.
Wyndelle narrates how collaborative efforts help him find courage: “Emotions during the past two years of the pandemic were high and low, but what helped me through was how the intimate art scene of Cebu and how we could come together— musicians, visual artists, poets, filmmakers— we all collaborate. Even though the art scene here is small, everyone makes an effort to know and find each other. More often than not, we are there whenever someone from the scene needs something.” Aside from the jolt of colors in his oeuvre, what makes him as an artist significantly barok is the ability to endure inequalities through collective action.
Physical exhibitions set up at the Ayala Triangle Gardens and the respective gallery venues run from March 23 until April 1, with online exhibitions and other activities on the Art Fair Philippines website.
Pio Angelo Ocampo recently graduated from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s Arts Management program where he served as president (A.Y. 2019-2020) of the program’s home organization. His practice stems from arts and culture writing, research, project management and curatorial collaborations. He is currently based in Madrid, Spain.