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ManilART to Celebrate Global Filipino Artists

Featured works to tackle the climate crisis, diaspora and other major issues as the country’s longest-running art fair returns for its 11th run.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO

On the spot painting at ManilART. Photo courtesy of the organizers.

F ilipino artists have been catching the world’s attention in recent years and ManilART, the country’s pioneering art fair, hopes to explain why.

The event will be returning for its 11th run this October. It will be held at the third level of the SMX Convention Center of SM Aura Premier from the 9th to the 13th and this year, its focus will be on “Showcasing the Global Filipino Artist.” To Tessa Rayos Del Sol, the event’s fair director, this is a timely endeavor.

“Many of our homegrown artists are making a mark globally at competitions and major international fairs,” she said.  “They help tell the story of the Filipino struggle to define our national identity.” And their event aims to celebrate that by putting the spotlight on talents that have beguiled the world stage. Among such names include painter Romulo “Mulong” Galicano whose work will serve as one of the highlights of this year’s fair.

Hailing from Cebu, Galicano, who has already won a number of international awards, has been captivating his audience through figurative works referencing high profile news items. In 2014, for example, his work “The Triumph of Life Over Death” attempted to capture both the suffering and the resilience of those affected by Typhoon Yolanda. This work caught the attention of the public during the 2014 outing of ManilART. A few years later, the art fair also unveiled another Galicano under the title “The Modern Holocaust.” It is an image that featured a woman waving the Philippine flag while defiantly raising her arm against masked terrorists victimizing civilians. This, according to various sources, is the man’s take on the Maguindanao massacre, a grim episode of political violence which saw the deaths of 50 individuals including members of the press.

 Both paintings are subjected to Galicano’s signatures as an artist, from the technical prowess that has gotten him recognized as one of the most gifted portraitists in the Philippines to the eye-catching vertical lines that unapologetically cuts through his otherwise traditional paintings—blunt reminders of their contemporary origins and the man’s creative authority over his works. And the fair is expected to see more of his artistry.

This year, Galicano intends to debut another large-scale painting and it will tackle the hot button issue of climate change, a timely input given recent events. After all, talks on global warming have filled all manner of media in recent weeks thanks 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunburg. Most recently, the girl chastised world leaders for their supposed inaction toward the climate crisis. Before that, she sparked a movement that has seen children across the world taking time off from school to participate in demonstrations calling on authorities to be more aggressive in addressing the climate issue.  The work Galicano intends to debut on the art fair seeks to add a Filipino’s perspective into the global discussion and it is a fitting take given how recent studies have deemed the Philippines as one of the countries most susceptible to the hazards of climate change.

Environmentalism, however, isn’t the only focus of this year’s art fair. Gathering various talents from the country, the event intends to tackle a number of issues tied the Filipino identity. Diaspora, for one, continues to be a relevant topic and ManilART’s VIP Lounge seeks to touch upon that through a collaboration between Susanito Sarnate and Anthony Palomo.

Hailing from La Carlota, Nagros Occidental, Sarnate, known for his work as a sculptor, has gained much attention for capturing the beauty of his youth using terracotta. Meanwhile, Palomo, from Batangas, is known as a master of oil, acrylic and watercolor media. Together, the two are expected to present works that give a glimpse into the life of an overseas Filipino worker. They intend to recreate their moments before departure and capture their gaze into the uncertainty of life within this context.  

That said, Palomo and Sarnate’s tandem is not the only collaboration in ManilART this year. There’s also “Dungaw” which will mix several disciplines to create a thought-provoking experience. Through this, ManilART curator and ostrich egg sculptor Danny Rayos del Sol, poet Riza Muyot, sculptor Agi Pagkatipunan, and painter-sculptor Kublai Millan will band together to craft interactive multimedia pieces that the fair’s guests can engage with. Poems involved in this will be translated into different Filipino languages in order to honor the number of underrepresented groups in the country. It also aims to reference the varying backgrounds the artists came from.

“Muyot and Millan come from Davao,” the fair’s press release stated. “Pagkatipunan comes from Rizal, and Rayos del Sol comes from Taguig.” As a result, guests can expect a border-crossing collaboration that adheres to the long-time vision of the fair.

As a flagship project of the National Commission of Culture and the Arts, ManilART was launched years ago to celebrate the Museums and Galleries Month in line with Presidential Proclamation No. 798. Since its debut, it has been the longest-running visual arts fair in the country and it has gathered artists, galleries and art lovers under one roof.

This year, articipating galleries will include the following: Galerie Francesca, Dave Art Gallery, ManilART Foundation, Incorporated, Legacy Art Gallery, Annual Sculpture Review, Singapore Contemporary Arts Society, Galerie  Raphael, Galleria Nicolas, Gallery Nine, Canvas, 371 Art Space, Arte Pintura, Galerie Roberto,AC888, Renaissance Gallery, Galerie Anna, Blanc, Artery Manila, PASPI, Paseo Gallery, Art for Space, Galerie Y, Art Farm, Artes Orientes, Art Circle, Quattrocento Gallery, Artologist, Ysobel Art Gallery, Artphile by CMG, Galerie Artes, Art Anton, and Espacio Manila.

ManilART isn’t just a showcase, however. It has also pushed for various advocacies. For example, it will be holding “Art for Red,” a fundraising event for the Philippine Red Cross to be pursued through the event’s partnership with daily broadsheet Manila Bulletin. This year, it will also continue its thrust towards art education by providing curated programs for learning and giving free walking tours to public school students.

“ManilART takes a step in the right direction,” the event’s press release said. “Art practitioners, exhibitors, and enthusiasts are enjoined to contribute to the cultural conversation.” And why not? It is, after all, this type of inclusivity that has nurtured global Filipino artists. Perhaps years from now, one of those who will be taking part in the conversation this year will end up have a resounding voice worth celebrating in the future.

ManilART’19 will run from October 9-13, at the third level of the SMX Convention Center, SM Aura Premier, Taguig City. Call 7798635 or visit www.manilart.org for more details.

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