Doktor Karayom’s Sariling Sulok voices out sentiments on Filipino faith and introspection amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Words by Maia San Diego. Images courtesy of Doktor Karayom.
Doktor Karayom’s Sariling Sulok encourages an honest dialogue with oneself.
The shift to Alert Level 1 has allowed the local art scene to slowly open up to a wide audience after a series of pandemic lockdowns. This month, Art Fair Philippines 2022 has welcomed the public. For seven to eight months, Doktor Karayom devoted time and labor to give birth to Sariling Sulok – his featured work for AFP 2022, and one of his most ambitious works yet.
Since 2020, everyone has been affected physically, mentally, and financially. The pandemic is a challenge to our faith, our system, and the fast-paced lifestyle we have been accustomed to. Artists are not immune to the transition from pre-pandemic life to the new normal. Galleries needed to adapt. Artists needed to find ways to survive. Like many Filipinos, Doktor Karayom had difficulty adjusting to the COVID-19 situation.
As the pandemic continuously loomed over the country, Doktor Karayom’s works eventually revolved around creating personal worlds at home. He has been interested in tackling the theme of collective pandemic experiences such as being stuck at home, which he finds fascinating because one’s home is where one can discover new things about oneself, where we allow ourselves long hours to contemplate our dreams and aspirations. However, he notes that one should find balance between contemplation and getting stuck in the black hole of overthinking to the point of worrying.
When faced with a crisis, it’s normal for people to feel anxious. We long for something to hold onto – something that will provide us strength in spite of the challenges. In times of need, many people turn to their faith. Expressing one’s faith, praying, and meditating can come in different forms. For Doktor Karayom, the pandemic has led to more frequent prayers. He prays by drawing every day. He says this is how he communicates his prayers to the Higher Being. This practice helps in calming himself down and in freeing himself from worry and negative energy.
As our everyday lives have slowed down, our new normal now calls for deeper introspection on our faith, beliefs, and perspectives. The crisis may have tested some people’s faith; however, the faith of many others may have been strengthened further precisely because of current events. Doktor Karayom has held onto his faith now more than ever.
He is fascinated by the mystery of life. He is in awe of people’s bravery and dedication, especially those who continue to fight for their families and dreams despite the unfortunate circumstances, and despite the seemingly hopeless situation due to how our current system is being run. He finds the uplifting Filipino spirit contagious.
Keeping high spirits implies being at peace with oneself. Doktor Karayom’s work, Sariling Sulok, is a visual interpretation of finding your own place – a place where you can converse with yourself and reflect on your beliefs. Here, you can let go of the fear of judgment, and just be with your thoughts, secrets, and prayers.
He employed a wide array of processes and techniques in the creation of Sariling Sulok. Resin, wood and other materials often used in religious imagery were used in the works.
Sariling Sulok references the image of the retablo or an altar. He is drawn to religious imagery as he believes these bring a sense of mystique through their details and design. He mentions how he often looks for the altar of any home he happens to visit. The elements and images of these altars vary depending on the family’s beliefs, he says.
Doktor Karayom intentionally placed seats in front of the works to allow viewers to rest and contemplate, allowing the works to extract any heavy or negative energy emanating from each immersed viewer. Though appropriating the image of a retablo, he used human figures in the works instead of religious icons. The figures in the works embody the viewers themselves, facing them head-on, as the work encourages personal reflection.
He believes that the Filipino faith has been greatly challenged during the pandemic because of the varying degrees of uncertainty we continue to face. This has encouraged Filipinos to continue holding onto their faith and prayers. Faith, however, should be complemented by action.
During a time of turmoil, there is a need for deep introspection to allow us to voice out our sentiments loud and clear. Doktor Karayom’s Sariling Sulok does not only react to the slowing down of our fast-paced pre-pandemic lifestyle. It also allows people to embrace this newfound slow lifestyle – a lifestyle that consists of observation, of reflection, and of simply “being”.
Faith does not solely refer to devotion to religious communities. Faith can also mean believing in the strength and ability of every person to overcome challenges. This includes believing in oneself. One can strengthen this faith only by conversing with one’s inner being. Perhaps it’s time to dissect our experiences over the past two years, and see how these reflect where our faith resides.
Come view Doktor Karayom’s work, Sariling Sulok, at Art Fair Philippines until April 01, 2022 at Ayala Triangle Gardens, Makati City.