Phoenix Rising

March started on a very positive note. I was fortunate enough to be included in an art feature on this month’s issue of Metro Magazine in celebration of Women’s Day. The article was penned by Geolette Esguerra, and it listed me as one of the notable female artists in the Philippines along with Annie Cabigting, Tosha Albor, Mimi Tecson, Nikki Luna, and Marika Constantino. I have to admit that I spazzed out upon reading the subheading, plus it’s really a huge honor to be featured alongside these amazing women.

I was supposed to post this entry last March 8 and was deciding what painting to feature that would somehow be apt for International Women’s Day – something empowering; a tough choice given that my painting subjects are all women. The day before, March 7, was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 84th birthday and I came across this quote from Love in the Time of Cholera:

He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.

I was instantly reminded of the last painting I did for 2012 of a woman engulfed in a variety of flame-like tropical flora. The quote somehow encapsulated the idea behind it – the necessity to emerge anew borne out of major turning points in life.

This Cleansing Flame
61cm x 91.4cm
Oil on canvas
2012

I had conceptualized This Cleansing Flame and made rough sketches of it during my short sabbatical around Cambodia and Laos, and I set out to start on the pencil work as soon as I got back from my trip. The painting was inspired by Shawn Colvin’s Sunny Came Home, particularly the lines:

Days go by I’m hypnotized
I’m walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire
Oh light the sky and hold on tight
The world is burning down

The imagery of the painting was intended to be reminiscent of a phoenix burning ferociously to rise from the ashes. Ultimately, the piece is about rebirth, the need to undergo certain “deaths” in order to create a better and wiser version of oneself, and discarding old beliefs that no longer hold true and do nothing but tie one to the past. A4-sized giclee art prints of this painting are available in my shop at AVA.ph.
I’m ending this post with selected questions and answers from the ones sent to me for the Metro Magazine article. These should give you a good overview of my craft and an idea of what I have in store, especially if you’ve just recently been introduced to my work.

Can you tell me more about what you’re currently working on?
I am currently working on illustrations for a coffee table book project, and on two new series of paintings: one is for a solo show on April, and another is for a two-man show on September. The pieces for the April show are mainly inspired by my trip to Vietnam last December. I fell in love with the ancient town of Hoi An, so you can expect to see a lot of lanterns and flower-bearing Vietnamese girls in ornate ao dais in my upcoming pieces apart from my usual geishas and gypsies.

Your works dwell on fantasy and myth, what are you trying to communicate with your art?
My works are emotive. I depict different stories and experiences of women – mostly personal, of emotions I can not express nor articulate while drawing inspiration for my imagery from myths and faery tales. Myths are, after all, based on collective human experience, and it is from this pool of stories that I find parallels of my own experiences that I seek to capture on canvases.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I have a wicked painting drive. Once I start zoning in to finish a painting or a whole series, I switch into hermit mode and often times forget about meals, so I stock up on coffee and crackers in my studio. I still go out for coffee in the morning or evening when I feel like it, but mostly, I find it a chore to leave the house whenever I am in the mood to paint.

While I can be usually found painting well into the night being the nocturnal person that I am, I still wake up around 7 or 8AM daily. Bath, breakfast, coffee, check emails, then studio work – it’s always in that order. Colors are most vibrant in the morning, so it’s important for me that I finish huge portions of my paintings during the day as much as possible, leaving pencil work and conceptualization in the night.

Music plays a big part in my creative process. I usually listen to just one playlist until I finish a specific piece just to stick to the mood. Sometimes, I prefer silence especially when my thoughts get too noisy. Painting breaks are spent browsing for more inspiration. But at all times, coffee is my lifeblood.

Is there a connection between your art and your concept of femininity?
There is none. Personally, I do not subscribe to a concept of femininity nor of masculinity. I believe in the fluidity of gender and that it should not and can not be dichotomized into but two boxes. My works, rather, focuses on the female form as a subject of sublime beauty. Given that my works echo the female experience, it is but proper that my painting subjects and muses are all women.

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