Who says only kids can play with toys?
Definitely not the artists at Secret Fresh Gallery, whose designer toys—also called art toys—are the highlight of Avant Cup: Contemporary Art Appreciation with Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) at the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Makati.
“My character is the three-eyed monster. He’s a bit blobby,” said Nemo Aguila, whose teardrop-shaped, glaringly pink and yellow Bochog Manster is on display in an exhibit from August 15 to 21 by the mall’s fountain area, (in front of the Zara store, to be precise). Rounded at the bottom, with horned backs and dotted sides, the resin-made Bochog Manster can wag back and forth in the way of inflatable punching bags that one puts on the floor.
“I don’t want it to be just a sculpture,” Aguila said of his work, which he describes as “gumaganun-ganun,” while flailing his hands back and forth. The visual-artist–turned-street-artist-slash-toy-artist wants his art to be movable, to be an interactive experience for the audience.
Acrylic paint, spray paint, markers, stickers, and nail art materials are just some of the things he uses to customize his designer toys. Through a demonstration, the audience got to see his meticulous creative process wherein he turned a plain white toy into a monster with a face and a personality.
Fellow Secret Fresh artist Whooop also showed off how he could bring the blank canvas of toys to life. Chickens—with wings flapping wide, beaks open in a squawk, and single eyes gleaming—take the limelight in their pastel-colored glory in his toy design titled “Kookoolan.”
“I started as a street artist and the street art that I would make was based on character designing,” Whooop told InterAksyon in an interview. “Each character I designed was a representation of actual scenes, people, or animals I would encounter. From there, I would transform them into paintings, and then from paintings, here they are today, three-dimensional, almost like sculpture.”
He and Aguila were classmates at the Far Eastern University where both majored in Fine Arts. “When people see my artworks, I want them to somehow be happy, for their childhood memories to come back, like nostalgia.”
The chickens are nostalgic indeed for Whooop, who grew up in the countryside. He and his playmates would catch baby chicks and run as fast as they could before the mother hens caught up with them. As soon as the hens were hot on their heels, the naughty children would throw the chicks back to their mothers. He quickly adds that the animals never got hurt.
For Aguila, it’s the streets where he gets his inspiration from, as well as his and other people’s “random experiences.” “Laking-kalye ako eh (I grew up in the streets),” he said.
He is motivated by “simple, shallow, but funny” things. “This is what I want to happen. When people see my artwork, they’ll laugh. Like my last show (Beauty is in the eye of the tiger) at Megamall. It was just about random things that happen to people. I painted a woman with a monster in her arms. The woman had her mouth open in surprise, saying, ‘Anyare? (What happened?)’ And the monster-child replied, ‘Eow phowz (Hello).’ These are the common Filipino terms used every day.”
Aguila strives to makes his art more relevant to ordinary people, bringing art closer to Filipinos whether in the museums, malls, or streets.
“The best thing about street art is that you don’t really target anyone in particular,” he said. “Whoever passes by will see it. There is an interaction that occurs. This means even if it angers you or cheers you up, you get affected by the art that we brought to the street. Not all art is made to be pleasing. Anyone can view street art. Children, vagrants, they see it.”
Avant Cup is the third event in CBTL’s Taste Series. “We wanted to bring the toy aficionados to the event, as well as introduce them to the coffee machines,” said CBTL business development manager Monica Escalona. “And vice versa; we wanted those who are fans of Coffee Bean to see what Secret Fresh is all about and see that there’s uniqueness in the talent of the Filipinos.”
During the meeting with the toy artists, guests were able to enjoy beverages made with the CBTL single-serve beverage system set, with which around 70 types of drinks (coffee and tea lattes, to espressos) can be made on an easy-to-use machine.
Visitors can purchase the system, originally priced at P25,000, for P14,950 during the event. They can also buy any of the toys on display. Meanwhile, for more designer toys, pop art, and urban art, visit Secret Fresh Gallery at the Ronac Art Center, Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills.