Take a deep breath, and get off the elevator.
On Thursday, February 20, the sixth and seventh floors of the Link car park in Makati City turn into a wonderland of contemporary Philippine art as Art Fair Philippines 2014 opens its doors to the public.
Along with VIPs, the media was given a preview of the exhibits by galleries and solo artists on Wednesday, February 19. The affair was overwhelming, to say the least, what with the vast array of multimedia pieces that caught the eye. A horse mascot with an erect penis, a menagerie of geometric animals, sculptural pingpong tables, art toys, and paintings by a National Artist were just some of the works that wowed.
What else shouldn’t you miss? Here’s a list.
1. Found by Lynyrd Paras at Art Cube
Found objects, photos, sculptures, and paintings come together in the artist’s solo exhibit, where he juxtaposes different media to create new meanings in the objects seen. For example, a multicolored, plastic model of a skeletal arm, reminiscent of his fracture when he was younger, is put in the same frame as a painting of the same arm, where he now has a tattoo.
Art Cube owner Alexander Tan says Paras has “raw talent” and “command of the material.” The artist always has something to say.
2. Cradle by Eugenia Alcaide at Art Informal
Known for her portraits made intricately with needle and thread, the artist was pregnant when conceptualizing her solo show for Art Fair Philippines. To make the presentation personal, she decided to feature her then unborn child.
“It was like she was weaving the child into being,” said Art Informal’s Gigi Lapid.
The artist has become more experimental since her first show with the gallery in 2012, creating more abstract pieces and playing with the tightness and looseness of the threads.
“Nobody knows how she makes it,” said Lapid.
3. Solo exhibit by Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera
While going to Baguio to see his works in his beautiful museum, with an outdoor view to match, should be on all Filipino art lovers’ to-do list, they can for the meantime appreciate the National Artist’s works at the seventh floor of the Link. Here, he depicts lovers, nudes, and mother and child pieces in bronze.
4. Paraluman at CANVAS
As the show was named after the muse, 16 artists present works “to tickle the imagination,” according to CANVAS’ Annette Ferrer. Most are paintings, such as Don Salubayba’s Ang Aking Panahon – Ang Aking Mundo, which shows a child in a Superman cape and a robotic head spewing clouds of blue; Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera’s Monsoon Season, which depicts a mother braving the rain with her child; and an untitled piece by Rommel Joson, illustrating a fantastic, dreamlike scene.
“Paraluman,” said Ferrer, is also a word for “compass.” Guests will find that “if it’s not something inside that moves you, it’s something that directs you to a particular destination.”
5. Pingpong tables by Louie Cordero
The artist slaps on all the colors of the rainbow onto four irregularly shaped pingpong tables, with legs like totem poles. Guests can play the game here, but it was the Philippine national team who made a splash.
Coach Lorie Wadjad said it was fun to use the creative, yet functional tables. (The bounce, she said, was just right.) The crowd was just as shocked as they were when they first laid eyes on the works, she added.
Coach Noel Gonzalez said he was thankful to the artist for promoting their sport.
6. Solo exhibit by Marina Cruz
Painted doll’s heads and clothing, as well as sculptures of conjoined dresses were quickly sold out on the first day of the artist’s show. According to Art Fair Philippines organizer Lisa Periquet, Cruz usually does feminine works exploring family and relationships.
Last year, Cruz spoke at the TEDxDiliman conference about her initial difficulty with getting pregnant. She and her husband then adopted a boy, and she got pregnant with another boy afterwards. She calls the two brothers her “twins.”
7. Solo exhibit by Jay Ticar at Richard Koh Fine Art
Large paintings of topsy-turvy houses, once in the middle of rubble, another time standing out from an identical row, are showcased at the Singapore-based gallery Richard Koh Fine Art. According to exhibitor Dexter How, it was time to reintroduce the Canada-based Filipino artist to the Manila art scene.
While some of the scenes may immediately bring to mind the ruins left by Typhoon Yolanda, How says that the paintings actually capture the Filipino dream of having the ideal house for the family. These were also done at a time when Ticar was migrating abroad, giving his work a bittersweet tinge.
The artist also created the work in the aftermath of tropical cyclone Ondoy, but it is, said How, not about destruction, but rather about rising up. It’s about hope, potential, reconstructing things as life happens.
8. Remains (The Sleepwalker) by Gene Paul Martin at Secret Fresh
The entire Secret Fresh booth is transformed into a grass-domed cave, a lightbulb in the middle drawing butterflies to it. The scent of chocolate fills the air.
Gene Paul Martin said his solo show is really meant to stand out from the rest of the fair. His whimsical works, composed of paintings of furry animals and art toys, are a manifestation of his childhood memories. All his comfort zones, he said, are put in one place.
As they were strapped for money when he was younger, he used to do gardening as a sideline. His boss’ child could always have chocolate, making him so jealous, he wished the child would drown in it. Hence the scent, and even the brown globs of paint dripping from his antlered, wide-eyed, round-stomached art toy, The Sleepwalker.
His pop surrealist works, he said, show that art need not always be highbrow or serious. It can simply be fun.
9. The Beginning of History: Chapter 10 by Norberto Roldan at TAKSU
Perfume bottles, compact mirrors, photos, and treasure boxes are grouped together to make the beholder wonder: “What kind of person is the woman who owns this?”
According to the artist, each found object already has a narrative of its own. When put together, a new tale emerges. Images from before and after World War II, during the 1960s, and even current times are juxtaposed with texts from the likes of F. Sionil Jose and Jack Kerouac.
Whether the images are old or not, they say something that is relevant today, said Roldan.
10. Illuminations by Joy Mallari at Tin-Aw
People may fear dragons, but find in them something fascinating, too. The artist, through a grand, resin sculpture, depicts the Filipino version of the mythological beast: the bakunawa.
As a way to explain the eclipse, she said, the myth goes that there once were seven or 12 moons, depending on the version. The bakunawa was enchanted with them and ate them, and its digestion patterns dictated the different phases of the moon.
Mallari also did lightboxes to complement the story, some with sculptures of the hands trying to catch the light, and another of the moon’s shadows.
11. Chapel of Many Saints and Sinners by Geraldine Javier
The artist’s solo exhibit is populated by resin and wooden statues of saints from Paete. St. Bartholomew is shown as he was flayed alive—the artist’s favorite for its gore. St. Therese is depicted lying with a bouquet of flowers by her breast. The apostles, whom she calls “Gossip Boys,” are positioned as though they are whispering to one another.
Javier says her work is inspired by her “very fond” memories as a child, when she would gather sampaguita to place them over the icons of saints. For Art Fair Philippines, she drapes them with clothes that are crocheted and tatted, the latter a form of lacework.
Here, she poses questions such as, “Why was Judas’ fate such that he had to betray Jesus, when it was really the latter’s destiny to die on the cross?” The Catholic school-bred artist also seeks to revive the woodcarving industry in Paete, as the images have become “generic”.
She says she wants these statues to be personalized so that the owner can deepen his or her devotion, and foster a spiritual relationship with the saints.
12. Mascots at Pablo Gallery
And what would an art fair be without the presence of the “bad boy of Philippine art,” Manuel Ocampo, and his take on the local art scene? Last year, the internationally known artist showcased works of established contemporary artists collectively known as Manila Vice who were at the time slated to exhibit in MIAM in Sete, France. Rather than curate the exhibit the usual way, Ocampo’s group set up the show like a riotous ‘tiangge’ complete with a life-size bronze figure of reclining punk figure and artist Romeo Lee.
This year, Ocampo’s at it again by mounting “Geld oder Kultur (Money or Culture),” which includes various mascots, sketches, paintings, and the drippings of yellow varnish on the wall. Ask him what it means and he’ll briefly explain that the parts of the bird mascot represent the artist, a blue horse mascot with a bird literally coming out from its crotch represent the gallery owners and collectors, and a green sausage mascot as “the profit.” The dripping varnish represent “the pee marks, the territorial marks, of gallery owners and collectors.”
The mascots come alive at 7 p.m. to entertain—if not to taunt—the fair’s artsy crowd.
14. Solo exhibit by Ronald Ventura
Known for the way he is able to seamlessly combine different art styles, Ventura has an installation in the middle of the art fair’s seventh floor. Here, figurines reminiscent of Pokémon are plonked next to models of human bodies lying amid debris. To the left is a cage of unicorn, the skin of the heads bared to reveal the flesh beneath. In the middle is a winding, flashing, multicolored fiberglass tower, while an angel observes from his perch on a battered wall.
• Fair Philippines 2014 runs from February 20 to 23. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are at Php150 each. Students get a 50 percent discount, while Makati City students with valid IDs get in free.