Nothing is abstract in Patrick Esmao’s shift in trajectory.
By Maia San Diego
In any given structure, a solid foundation must be laid down to ensure strength and efficiency. Patrick Esmao’s geometric abstractions are built on a strong foundation of technical skills, hard work, and passion.
Patrick Esmao (b. 1986) is a visual artist from Baras, Rizal. He paints abstract cityscapes composed of geometric shapes and sews threaded lines across the surface. From having professionally taught drafting, the pandemic has now allowed him to shift his path towards becoming a full-time artist, to be able to completely focus on improving his craft. Esmao graduated from the University of Rizal System with an Education degree, having majored in Drafting. This background in the technical arts has paved the way for his growth in the art scene.
Recent global crises have required us to go back to basics. Knowing the importance of those that are essential is different from acknowledging them as such. During the time of isolation and solitude at the height of the pandemic, our lives and career decisions were drastically affected. Some people have had difficulties adjusting beyond their comfort zones while others have been keen on further exploring their potential.
For artist Patrick Esmao, he worked to do the latter. With the right timing during the pandemic, he sought to save up just enough to take the risk of going full-time. And leap, he did.
In the incredibly congested Mega Manila, people have been used to the fast-paced life which was cut short by an abrupt silence. The interruption required citizens to show patience and self control amid the quarantine restrictions. This has had an effect on people’s career status as everything and everyone was forced to pause.
“[The] pandemic is considered as the time of the great resignation,” says the artist. The resignation wave during the pandemic has left people wandering and exploring new ventures for their personal and professional growth.
Despite the many challenges during the height of the global pandemic, Esmao was able to mount not one but four solo exhibitions, including Urban Elevations this May at Galerie Joaquin BGC. These are apart from his virtual exhibitions that also turned out to be great milestones for the artist. Esmao’s transition from Point A is an intriguing story that may fuel even the most uninspired among us.
A Shift in Trajectory
The story that led to his career shift decision is familiar to many, but not all have the guts to truly pursue such a path. Risking one’s profession – one that provides a steady flow of income – for a craft whose fate is unpredictable is a decision to be lauded on its own.
His recent successes were not possible in isolation, however. According to Esmao, he is fortunate to have a home gallery, especially one that is generous in support. It is an artist’s dream to have a strong support system to maintain one’s artistic pursuits.
When it comes to finding a starting point in the craft, Esmao believes in capitalizing on the skills that one already has. In his case, these are his drafting skills. Painting what you know provides you with a strong foundation to create pieces that resonate with yourself. In any case, it is always best not to force the creation of something just for the sake of the market or for praise.
If any, this is one lesson we can take away from Esmao’s work ethic—staying true to what you are passionate about to keep the fire burning.
Shaping A Vision
Esmao’s works exhibit strong geometric shapes that cut sharp across the surface. A neutral palette of blacks, grays, and warm tones color his shapes.
His choice of shades, though sometimes including a bold hue, does not seem to be visually loud. The palette presents a quiet sophistication that is a product of the tedious labor required of such controlled lines and strokes. One must have patience to achieve such a visual effect.
Esmao’s works provide visual tension that arrests the viewers. The impact is heightened upon closer inspection of the threaded surface. The viewer may notice the varying contrasts in Esmao’s works, between light and dark shades, the angular corners of the painted shapes and the softness of the tactile threads.
As one of the many abstract artists in the art scene who depict geometric shapes in their works, Esmao has found a solution on how he could make his works different from what is already out there. With the hunger to create something fresh, he decided to incorporate threadwork into his paintings.
Esmao exhibits not just a polished standard of art production, but he also expresses a desire to push the boundaries of abstraction as an art movement.
A newcomer may see Esmao’s works and find themselves confused with such pieces; however, Esmao’s works require the devotion of a quiet moment—one that will allow oneself to reflect on the meticulous process and level of commitment that was dedicated by the artist. Esmao’s paintings and needlework show his perseverance for his craft.
At the Intersection
When residing in highly urbanized Manila, people tend to easily forget the most essential things in life. The pace of city life prevents people from returning to the basics—the basics that open our eyes to what truly matters.
Like in life and in family relations, it’s important to take the time to slow down and focus your undivided attention. For Esmao, he believes that succeeding in art requires great focus. An artist must devote countless numbers of hours in the practice. One cannot explore the depths of their abilities if one is distracted with other tasks. This has been the case when Esmao was still juggling his teaching career with his life as an artist.
These days, he has been fully devoting his time and resources to his artistic life. However, even before his full-time artistic career, he has always been drawn to getting knee-deep into research. While he has his fair share of artistic influences such as Arturo Luz and Lao Lianben, his openness to learn from any and all resources allows him to expand his knowledge endlessly. Esmao’s learning is a never-ending journey, as it should be.
As individuals, let’s take it from Esmao, who has tried and tested this “non-formula formula.” Devoting time and energy to what matters most is crucial to our growth as a people.
Nothing is linear when it comes to artistic progress. While it may seem that the artist has had it all figured out, Esmao has yet to define the shape of his practice. Esmao can envision a number of possibilities where his art can go. He can see himself exploring cityscapes from a different perspective. Sculptural works and NFTs are some mediums that seem to interest him. He is also looking forward to hopefully getting the chance to create pieces that are of monumental scale.
Much like the artist’s openness to new learning resources, he is also receptive to experimenting with imagery and mediums that are yet unfamiliar to him. For his future projects, he is considering incorporating mythical creatures and legends into the picture without leaving behind his current signature style.
While Esmao is interested in adding fresh elements into his works, he has also established his preferences when it comes to themes and imagery. For example, instead of taking on the incredible role of changing the world through one’s art, Esmao prefers to encourage individual change through his works, one that may hopefully provoke the collective change that we all seek. A young, wide-eyed artist may seem doubtful of that statement, but any artist deserves to be respected for being honest in their craft.
While the artist seems to have the drive to challenge the system, he has also found the medium appropriate for expressing his ideas. Many artists may want to follow suit.
Squaring The Circle
The sharp corners of painted shapes and the soft fibers of thread that intersect his work allow Esmao to concretize the abstraction that is the life of a full-time artist amid a global crisis. Patrick Esmao’s shapes may have gone back to basics but his strong foundation in technical skills and in ideas has presented him with possibilities that go beyond the horizon.
Works of art are meant to engage the audience. These works are meant to provoke dialogue and healthy debate among viewers and artists alike. Esmao has a similar goal for his works. His objective is to hold the viewer’s attention and to extend their interaction with his pieces. He finds joy in how viewers tend to be engrossed in how his works were created and end up answering their own questions about the process. It’s a simple joy, but one that is valuable as it encourages the exchange of ideas.
“No guts, no glory,” one might say about the artist’s story of courage. The artist is a risk-taker. The artist dared to take the leap. For Esmao, it is a matter of devoting his time and undivided attention to his creative process, in order to produce great work.