Project 52: Weeks 1 to 3

Back in 2012, I attempted doing a Project 365, which I wasn’t able to complete. I was going steady from January until mid-February, then my production decreased until I was only able to make around 1 to 2 drawings per week – most of which, especially the ones I made after February weren’t even inked or finished. I stopped trying to produce anything for the project in early October.

So this year, I got inspired by Gab to do a Project 52 – one drawing a week – something that is definitely more doable. Since I started a week late, I decided to just include my finished drawing from October 2012 for Week 1 so that this whole project would be a sort of continuation. I’m still keeping a couple of rules — that the images shouldn’t take too long to think about and working on a drawing shouldn’t consume much of the time I should be spending for studio work. In a nutshell, this is to be a breather from painting on large canvases, and a springboard for concepts I might further develop and eventually render as paintings. Plus, this should get me to blog more frequently.

Week 1: Lavender Roses

Week 1: Lavender Roses

My work for Week 2 was originally drawn on the afternoon of the 7th of October 2012, just before I left for Phnom Penh. I was running late for my flight that day. I decided to complete this to take up where I left off, thus, finishing this last January 10. You may view what the unfinished piece looked like here.

Week 2: Don't Look Back

Week 2: Don’t Look Back

Fresh from watching 47 Ronin, my drawing for Week 3 was a girl in a kabuto. It’s no coincidence that this and the one from the previous week are both Japanese-themed. You know how in some arcade games they’d show your character all bloodied and bruised while a countdown ticks on ’til Game Over? This one is somewhat my “Insert coin and press P1 to continue” drawing. This is my way of saying, “Game on! I’ll finish this project this time around.”

Week 3: Girl in a Kabuto

Week 3: Girl in a Kabuto

Getting Into Shoe Art

Early last May, I was commissioned to paint a pair of canvas shoes for Bensimon’s launch in the Philippines. Now, I am new to this shoe art thing and upon learning that a basic pair of Bennies costs around Php 2500, I decided to practice first on a cheap pair of Advan sneakers. Couldn’t risk ruining the ones I was to design. So here’s how my “practice pair” turned out.
shoes_practice

For the actual pair of Bensimons I painted on, I was given a few specifications by the organizers: (1) that the design should be wholesome, so I was not allowed to place my usual skulls and “hints of gore and self-mutilation” — I love the fact that they do know my work; but mainly, (2) that it should reflect the stylish, on-the-go Parisian chic feel of the brand. So sticking to a color scheme of pink, black, and red, here’s what I came up with.
IMG_7724(min) bensimon_katpallon1 bensimon_katpallon2 bensimon_katpallon3 bensimon_katpallon4 bensimon_katpallon5

The launch was held at The Atrium in Enderun Colleges last June 11. The venue was prettily decorated to look like a French cafe with the adjoining room made to resemble a street in Paris lined with mini bazaars, flower shops, and an art gallery where the custom-designed shoes were displayed. Mine came with a small painting to match the shoe art. I kept the design feminine and elegant. No skulls; just roses, ribbons, and stripes.

Albeit the fabric being too soft for painting, designing the Bennies was a fun experience. I also have to note that the launch got me started wearing canvas shoes — a grape-colored pair of tennis lacets I was given for free that goes well with my mostly black, gray, and red wardrobe. Don’t get me wrong though, boots will always be my comfy shoes (I did get another red pair of Bennies though).
bensimon_launch1 bensimon_launch2 bensimon_launch3

Save for an extra pair of size 9 white Bennies I still can’t decide what to do with yet, I knew that wouldn’t be the last pair I’d be working on. True enough, that wasn’t my last foray into shoe art for the year. Come October, I found myself customizing shoes again — a pair of Vans this time, which was, truthfully, easier to work on.  I guess this explains why there are lots of custom Vans shoe art out there. I’d have to try working on other brands, but so far, the canvas for this brand is just perfect for painting.

The client’s request was simple: A design that’s undeniably me. Without thinking twice about what to paint, I threw in my favorite elements I like to incorporate in my paintings — roses, skulls, bones, a few curlicues, and my new found love – VISCERA!
vans_katpallon1 vans_katpallon2 vans_katpallon3 vans_katpallon5 vans_katpallon4 vans_katpallon6

Now that I’ve experienced painting on three pairs of canvas shoes, I think I’m ready to try working on a new material — leather.  I’ve agreed to design a pair, and tinkering with a new medium is always exciting. Yep, can’t wait to get started on that one. As for the extra pair of Bennies, I’m a size 7 and I really won’t be able to use them, so I’m considering designing and raffling them off some time in 2014. I just need to get a few paintings done first. So there you go, two supposedly separate overdue posts compressed into one. Definitely looking forward to doing more shoe art next year,  among other projects of course.

The Call of the Void

Twenty five days before the year ends and I dare say that 2013 has been a really awesome one. I remember telling a friend that if I could choose one year to get stuck in, THIS would be it. That might sound a bit too much (and of course there could be better years ahead), but that’s because I’ve had such a grand time and this year just has too many good memories to look back to. The first day of the year found me preparing for a solo exhibit that happened last August, and rightfully so, I shall be closing it with a two-man show with my brush/ graphite/ pen-wielding tarsier friend, Isobel Francisco.

Join us on the last Friday the 13th of 2013 for the opening of The Call of the Void at Art Gallery Asia in Pasong Tamo cor. Don Bosco St., Makati. Cocktails start at 6PM. Prior to that, we’ll be having short talks about our respective painting series, so you might want to drop by early to catch that one.

The Call of the Void Exhibit Poster

L’appel du Vide: The Call of the Void
Artistic Explorations into the Unknown

The visual poetry of Katrina Pallon & Isobel Francisco


Text by: Hannah Jo Uy


Close your eyes. You are standing on a cliff. A cliff so proud and majestic it stands tall above all other surrounding natural structures. Take a deep breath and take a step closer to the edge. You hear your feet slowly crushing the pebbles as you plant them deliberately on the ground. Inhale the air of the heavens, far from everything and anything you have ever known and open your eyes. Your eye is met with the image of your familiar toes touching the horizon that signals the end of a cliff. You look down, and see an endless abyss; land is imperceptible, covered by sedentary white tufts of clouds. Your heart beats so fast you can see the incremental movements in your chest. Fear is palpable. Death is close. But you have never felt more alive. You hear a voice whispering to hang on to this feeling. Safety and comfort have become repulsive. Your body begs you to jump, in its desire to know more; its desire to fall and know complete and total freedom.

This is the Call of the Void.

The French in its romantic lingual prowess have always had a knack of capturing the most subtle of sentiments with a single twist of the tongue. L’appel du Vide is a word that defines a psychological phenomenon in which secret desires, subconscious yearnings, and impulses of the flesh pierces through the wall that is held up by a social understanding of what is logical and what is acceptable. Although no fitting translation that totally captures the magnitude of the phrase can be found to this day, the closest known term in English is, “The Call of the Void.”

Artists Katrina Pallon and Isobel Francisco have taken it upon themselves to explore this phenomenon, a task they have executed to perfection.

There is no sound stronger than silence. In this silence, the deepest longings buried under our subconscious find an opening in which to reveal themselves, which is why this silence has also been synonymous with fear. However, artists Pallon and Francisco in their trademark spunky attitude, attack this fear head on, stab it with their paintbrush, and from its blood drew a collection of colors that they have skillfully manipulated to create striking and thought provoking art pieces. Together, the artists present their reflections on the subject of secret desires through a collection of pieces that demonstrate their insightful and soulful musings, and remarkable talent.

Katrina Pallon, a Visual Communications graduate from the University of the Philippines- Diliman, has been slowly carving a name for herself in the local art scene. The prolific artist is, in fact, just coming off two exhibits this year, another two-man show and a solo exhibition. A passionate musician, avid traveler, and lover of black boots, Pallon has been repeatedly inclined to thematic images featuring her own gender. Through her brush, Pallon narrates the stories and sorrow of women who are no one, and at the same time, everyone. Southeast Asian sensibilities are often prominent in her work, in subtle doses often through her creative use of flowers and lanterns, elements that have always been her own personal point of fascination. Much inspired by her travels all over Southeast Asia, the paintings of Pallon have always stood out for their ability to speak of the innermost tension and struggles of women. For this exhibit, she faces her own fears as an artist, experimenting with compositions outside her comfort zone. “It’s about succumbing to your darkness,” says Pallon of her recent collection, “embracing emptiness.”

Isobel Francisco, Humanities graduate from Ateneo de Manila University, may not have thought she would have an often demanding occupation of being an exhibiting artist. But talent and fate protested against her initial thoughts, and her outstanding talent and eye for color have brought her to the beginning of what promises to be an impressive career. A deep seated love for creative concepts and out of the box thinking have defined most of her life, even in the midst of her many occupations as a brand designer, a copywriter, and a digital artist. Having refined her skill in digital art, her transition to oil paintings depicts a natural talent that is further improved by her innate hunger for knowledge. The collection of Francisco shows her attraction to blue palettes, “Although all colors are versatile, for me blue is the most versatile in depicting a range of emotions. Not just in its lightness and brightness, but the execution can make it lighthearted or sad at the same time, or emotional or completely void of emotion.” Admitting herself to be a lifelong student of the arts, Francisco is excited at the challenges of taking on new mediums.

In their shared intellectual curiosity of the world, they have recorded a hidden and honest range of human emotions, the product of tensions that plague our everyday lives, making a truly haunting visual experience.

Illumination and Transition

My third solo painting exhibit opens next Monday, 12th of August, 6PM at the LRI Art Pavilion. I must say I am excited to finally mount my latest series of paintings after getting moved for a couple of months. What to expect? Florals, birds, intricate patterns, Vietnamese ladies and a couple of Japanese and Manchu women in elaborate garments, and lanterns. You may RSVP at the Facebook event page. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served by the maids and butlers of Dokissaten. I hope to see you there. illuminata

No mysterious air surrounds her, and perhaps that is what which lends most to her mystique. She comes, she goes. She embarks on her travels, a few days here, a month or two there. This wisp of a child-woman has engaged on a discovery of her Asian roots, traipsing through the nooks and crannies of Thailand and Hong Kong, to the less travelled routes of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, before yielding to the irresistible pull of India and Nepal.

Each homecoming is followed by an outpouring of veiled thoughts and emotions on canvas using oils and acrylic. Inspired by German symbologist Gustav Klimt and the dynamic renditions of Frida Kahlo, Mexico’s painter of renown, Katrina or Kat has embarked on a very similar vein of artistry – colors, symbols, portraits of enigmatic women. A case in point is “Ceasing to Bleed,” showing a woman in Vietnamese attire surrounded by a halo of flowers and brilliant colors, her arm outstretched, sporting a long, savage gash but blood no longer streaming from it. It was done after a deep, personal loss.

Katrina is prolific, rendering both commissioned and gallery artworks with prodigious output, and which find their way to buyers and collectors soon enough. A Magna cum Laude graduate of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines, Katrina Pallon promises to conquer both frontiers of classroom and gallery. Collectors have began to take notice of her obras, as she has just began her own artistic journeys of discovery littered with symbols.

A very intimate picture emerges of her art as described by a friend and critic:
“After her last solo exhibit, Resurgence, artist Katrina Pallon has become the ferryman transporting her captive audience across the underworld river: in her upcoming exhibit, Illuminata, Pallon now takes us through a grim, mystical nether-region of lanterns, cranes, skulls, and roses. As a reflection of her current emotional status, her works reveal a transitory state, a tunnel that leads to the light: it is the ending night with the break of dawn visible from afar; that quickly fleeting, terribly beautiful moment when you hold your breath in anticipation.

Executed in the artist’s trademark maximalist style, ‘Illuminata’ mythologizes both Pallon’s recent travels across Southeast Asia. Whence before Pallon’s women had been in a state of mourning, the characters in her current exhibit are now in transition–wading out of their entanglement, rising from the emptiness slowly beginning to dissipate.”

“Illuminata” series of paintings will be exhibited at LRI Art Pavilion, 210 Nicanor Garcia St., Bel Air II, Makati City. There will be 12 pieces 4 ft x 4 ft, 3ft x 4ft, and 2ft x 3ft paintings, curated by Mandy Navasero. Open to the public August 12 to 20, 2013, Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm. For inquiries, call 8963208 or 09155430482.

I’ve Got Whozits and Whatzits Galore

As a break from all my painting and travel posts, I’ve decided to come up with a feature on some of my favorite things I collect and adorn my room with. I originally intended to post this last April after spring cleaning one lazy Saturday afternoon, which just goes to show how much more pending updates I have in queue.

An altar of masks: (1) The Venetian Jester and the smaller gatto mask are gifts from Ate Tina and Reyna respectively, while the black, gold, and orange one is something I ordered online from a few years back; (2) Intricate batik masks (A tip if you’re into collecting this sort of mask: They are best bought in Yogyakarta where everything is cheaper than in any other part of Indonesia); (3) Locally-crafted masks from Bacolod (the terracotta ones are handiworks of the late mask-maker/ painter/ sculptor Rex Cuenca), a mask from China given to me by Julie, and a Thai mask I was able to score for a very good price in one of the stalls lining the port for cross-river ferries bound for Wat Arun in Bangkok.
venetianbatik masks

Puppets! I don’t have much, but I am determined to grow my meager collection. As of now, I only have a couple of string puppets from Cambodia (only one of the two is in this photo) and a pair of wayang goleks – Rama and Sita. I regret not having been able to buy a wayang kulit or two as I splurged too much on masks during my last trip to Indonesia.
puppets

Gadgets and gizmos aplenty, and by that I mean: (1) Tapestries and wall hangings; (2) Ornate boxes of  all shapes and sizes from different curio shops; (3) A peacock pipe, which was my only purchase from Damnoen Saduak Floating Market; (4) Small brass figurines and paper weights from Cambodia, Nepal, and India; AND (5) A small shoe sculpture by Ferdinand Cacnio – one of my most prized possessions.
photo 1(1) trinkets

My most recent obsession are lanterns, which I kind of hoarded when I visited Hoi An last December, then distributed around certain spots in our house. My aim is to draw inspiration from Cafe Mary Grace’s gorgeous chandelier (refer to the last photo in this post) comprised of numerous lamps and LED lights when I have my room renovated next year.
photo 2 lanterns

And yes, you may follow me on Instagram. It’s open for public consumption; nothing too personal there – just photos of food, places, paintings, illustrations, friends, and random stuff that are meant to somehow document my existence on a weekly basis.

Summer and Bali

Just when I thought that this blog will never be consistently updated (what with the long hours I spend for studio work and illustration projects in-between), by some miraculous twist of fate, I have somehow found a way in my current schedule to allot days devoted to blogging. Having said that, this post is intended as a final hurrah to summer. Yes, even if the rainy season has already set in.

A summer ago, I and my friend, Evan, found ourselves in Bali after exploring temples around Yogyakarta. While it was scorching hot in the latter, Bali weather was erratic, much like the current weather condition here in Manila – one morning we’d be sweating while taking photos and marveling at temples, the next thing we know we’re running and looking for shelter from a sudden downpour, usually settling for the nearest cafe (with Wi-Fi!) we can find. We arrived on a rainy night; our flight from Jakarta was even a couple of hours delayed. A one-hour cab ride took us through lush rolling hills and rice terraces to the town of Ubud, Bali’s center for arts and crafts, dance, and music. We had difficulty looking for our guesthouse as it was tucked away in a narrow residential area, a good 10-minute walk from the main road where most of the other guesthouses, curio shops, and restaurants are located.
IMG_1621 IMG_1916The best part of our room was the huge terrace overlooking the guesthouse’s garden. I would wake up early each morning and enjoy my quiet time alone, having breakfast and sipping a good cup of coffee. I brought my handy sketch pad with me, and I would draw away during lazy afternoons and evenings, listening to Beirut and Florence and the Machine. That terrace is just perfect!

Continue reading

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.