The press preview in the afternoon was a subdued affair (before the floor by floor booze sampling, that is), with many having enough time and space to look at the art. The weekend crowd was something else, with more people taking selfies and queues for pop art exhibits rivaling a line for the trendiest boba milk tea Photo by Jet Benson
In the future, professional women should all just be called: writers, photographers, sculptors — artists. Not “women writers,” “female photographers,” “women sculptors,” or “female artists.”
We can only be evolved when we begin to work together, engage one another as people. Not as man and woman. Just as human beings. We’re a long ways off from that ideal future.
But some of the artists in this year’s Art Fair agree that although one’s gender is inescapable in one’s work, that it shouldn’t be the lone defining element.
Women and Art
Ambie Abaño, architect turned visual artist, on her work: “Most of my works are kind of like seeking . . . introspection. But I cannot separate that from my being a woman. But it has nothing to do with a comparing (sic) with men . . . the thing about looking at men and looking at women at the same time, it’s not about comparison. It’s not about who’s bigger, who’s better. It’s not about that. But the recognition of the other gets you to understand yourself better.” Photo by Jet Benson
Christina Quisumbing Ramilo replies when asked about the female artists in the country, “I think we’re lucky in the Philippines. Women have shows because they have talent, not because they’re women, so it’s regardless of gender. In different countries, there are women shows. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think we’re very lucky women can stand on their own, not because of they’re gender. But because they’re strong and talented and powerful.”
Another side to this perspective is seeing men and women work together.
Ambie Abaño, who worked with Roberto Feleo in the “Subliminal Metaphors” exhibit sees the value in working together. She says, “Men and women can live in harmony because we’re only human. But we have to transcend differences, transcend competition. Transcend all this prejudices. But if we open ourselves to understanding each other better, we can be more powerful as human beings.”
Liv Vinluan, this year’s Karen H. Montinola Selection grantee, sees the differences as being more pronounced when women take on a new role, and go from being a daughter to a wife, and for some, mother. She says, “There are certain things that are expected of us so it’s harder to get out of (the loop) . . . that’s when I found out na ‘Ay, ang hirap maging babae pala.’ But you will realize that kind of pressure from society . . . and that was one of the few things I was thinking of when I was making this piece.”
Even when you shy away from talking to the artists and simply look at their works, you can’t not go to Art Fair Philippines and not come away inspired to create.
Never mind that you also leave the four floors filled with exhibits liquored up (also a roaring way to get inspired). The point is you’re surrounded by photographs, paintings, installation art, sculptures, and a piece of someone else’s soul. And you’re likely to go home with an urge to grab a pencil, a brush — anything, to make something of your own.
Who knows? If you start sketching, painting, molding now you might have enough created for future art fairs.
Meanwhile, here are some of the pieces we saw at this year’s Art Fair:
A section of Christina Quisumbing’s “Forest for the Trees.” The artist challenged viewers to put their story on the books, and on the second day of the fair, those books all had chalk marks or titles Photo by Jet Benson
What’s the best medicine you can afford? “Cheap Medicine” by Oca Villamiel, which is also part of the ArtFair Projects, features 200 heads made of coconut shells propped on bamboo poles and cement base Photo by Jet Benson
Liv on her work, “Nung Gambalain ang Sayawan”: “I was also thinking about the behavioral climate affairs — everybody puts stuff on the wall, you know. It’s an assault to the senses. I wanted to arrive at something that was just streamlined, something simple more direct to the point . . . In theory, it’s really quite simple: it’s a 30-foot piece of paper work, propped on stilts and suspended from the ceiling.” Photo by Jet Benson
A piece from Chikako Motoyama’s “Underlying Fighting Spirit” Photo by Jet Benson
You’ll never drink Don Papa rum the same way again once you know about its namesake. Papa Isio, a revolutionary Negros hero who was one with Andres Bonifacio in kicking out the Spaniards from the Philippines, was a farmer and babaylan (a shaman who could communicate with ancestral and environmental spirits). Papa Isio was captured by the Americans and sent to prison where he died in 1911. Like a true revolutionary leader, he never swore allegiance to Spain and America. “Inside the Mind of Papa Isio” by Geovanni Abing Photo by Jet Benson
MM Yu’s commissioned work, “Subject/Object,” a documentation of several artists’ studios Photo by Jet Benson
Part of Ian Fabro’s “Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso” triptych, which layers extremely detailed images, from the macabre to the indiscernible figures, using pen and ink and stapled together with pins. Photo by the writer
Also part of the ArtFair Projects, David Medalla’s “A Stitch in Time.” Described as a participatory work of art, people can stitch their messages, leave something of themselves: photos, keepsakes, etc., turning the 15-meter long canvas into a kind of portable history. This artwork has previously exhibited in London, Lisbon, and New York, to name a few cities Photo by the writer
Art is sometimes about the beholder because as we were looking at “Tihaya” by Elaine Navas, only one thought came to us: vagina. Meanwhile, a gay man walks up to it and declares that it’s a phenomenal illustration of a fruit Photo by Jet Benson
“Finding the Light” by Daniel dela Cruz, also one of the more popular exhibits Photo by Jet Benson
Religious figures made several appearances on several different pieces. Here in particular, Jesus hangs with the posse from DC and Marvel Photo by Jet Benson
“7 Tribes” by AT Maculangan, a portrait of the leaders of the seven tribes Photo by Jet Benson
“FLAWS” by Dr. Karayo. The street artist used resin fiberglass and acrylic paint Photo by Jet Benson
“You Can Judge Me All You Can” by Ciane Xavier Photo by the writer
The crowd dispersing at the Art Fair Philippines Photo by Jet Benson