The Thirteen Artists Awards 2012

Leeroy New's interventions on the CCP's main staircase

I decided to come early this time around, and felt amply rewarded for my efforts.  There is much to recommend the 2012 Thirteen Artists Awards exhibit, and I wanted the opportunity to savor it on my own pace. Continue reading

All Around Town: DAGC Gallery, Pablo Fort, Manila Contemporary, Blanc Peninsula, and Pinto Art Gallery

Noi Gonzales, "Pakikisama", at Pinto Art Gallery

I’ve been stranded in the seven kingdoms of Westeros these past few weeks, ensnared by the five mammoth volumes of The Game of Thrones.  I thought it high time to come back to reality, to catch up on Manila’s art scene—my original form of escape.  I wanted to see some exhibits that were due to close, and to make sure I made it to some of this weekend’s more promising openings.

My two-day art binge took me from the heart of Taguig’s Global City, to the streets of Makati and yonder, all the way up to the hills of Antipolo. Continue reading

Leeroy New’s Psychopomp’s Reef Launches BGC Offsite Gallery

Leeroy New's Psychopomp's Reef at the BGC Offsite Gallery

I’ve always believed that we should all have access to good art, and that making it available means expanding the experience of art to beyond the gallery or museum setting.  Unfortunately, the scarcity of open areas in Metro Manila has meant that we get very little public art— and no, monuments to historical personages don’t count! Continue reading

Altarpieces at Artesan

Ronald Ventura's assemblage

While the parallel events around Art Stage Singapore marked the first time that Philippine art made such a collective impact on the Southeast Asian art scene, one gallery in Singapore has been working for years to introduce Pinoy artists to this market.  In a converted shophouse at a leafy residential enclave half an hour from busy Orchard Road, Artesan Galelry + Studio not only hosts exhibits of Filipino art.  They have also collaborated with the National University of Singapore to bring artists such as Ronald Ventura (2008) and Antipas Delotavo (2009) into the university’s museum.  Continue reading

My Favorite Piece from 2010, The Year The Museums Showed Us How

Detail, "Balete" by Leeroy New

We saw some pretty good stuff in 2010, the year that just seemed to whiz by.  I thought the museums led the way, bringing us well-mounted exhibits that made art watching both exciting and gratifying.  The Vargas Museum started their 2010 exhibit line-up in February with Stock, a show of works by Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, then had Bound and Bomba in June, and ended the year with Rodel Tapaya’s Bulaklak ng Dila.  The Yuchengco Museum gave us Santi Bose’s retrospective, Remix, in February, and combined art and design with Pumapapel, an exhibit of works on paper, in July.  The Lopez Museum culminated their 50th Anniversary in November by inviting street artists to show their stuff for Extensions.  Meanwhile, the Ateneo Art Gallery celebrated their own 50th by inaugurating their brand new space in October with the super Lee Aguinaldo retrospective. Continue reading

The 2010 Ateneo Art Awards

Just like everybody else in the audience, I eagerly awaited the announcement of winners for this year’s Ateneo Art Awards.  The

Shattering States: The Ateneo Art Awards 2010 Winners: Pow Martinez, Leslie de Chavez, and Mark Salvatus

Ateneo Art Gallery staff kept the final results under tight guard, even to us jurors.  Thankfully, they paced this year’s awards night programme so that none of us had long to wait. Continue reading

Leeroy New Raises A Balete While Kiri Dalena Repeats History

Leeroy New, "Balete"

Sometimes only  a Pinoy word will do to convey an incredible experience.  Find time to pass by the Ateneo Art Gallery’s newly-

Another detail, "Balete"

expanded space (they’ve completely taken over the old Rizal Library), and see if you don’t agree with me.  How else can you describe

Detail, Leeroy New, "Balete"

Leeroy New’s installation other than galing?  Because it is.  So galing!  Conceptualized with thinking that goes beyond awesome, and put together by the creative use of simple materials that goes beyond super, you really just have to say

Leeroy New next to his Balete tree

Ang Galing!”

In Balete, Leeroy wraps the posts of the gallery’s facade with his version of a Balete tree, one constructed from cable lines , flexible tubing used for electric conduits.  Accented by plastic cable ties, the tree twists and turns between the building’s columns, simulating the gnarling, gigantic roots of an actual Balete.  Also known as the Banyan in Southeast Asia, the Balete possesses a mystical reputation.  It guards sacred spaces, monasteries and old churches.  Leeroy comments that the orange cables remind him of the saffron robes used by Buddhist monks.

Detail, "Balete"

In the Philippines, we know the Balete as the dwelling place of extra-terrestrials and enchanted spirits.  Leeroy worked with graphic designer Dan Matutina for projections that mimic the enchantments bestowed by legend on a Balete.  Come by during the evenings of the exhibit’s run and catch the apparitions suggested by the light patterns.  You may even see a wisp of the legendary White Lady crossing the tree’s intermingling branches.

Another view of Balete

Simultaneous to Leeroy’s installation, Kiri Dalena mounts  Watch History Repeat Itself inside the gallery’s space for contemporary exhibits.  Kiri continues her documentation of protest slogans that began with Keeping the Faith, the piece that won the 2009 Ateneo Art Awards.   Earlier this year, she carried on this exercise in The Present Disorder Is The Order Of The Future (for which she got into the shortlist of this year’s awards) by using marble slabs as the medium to memorialize these slogans and placard texts.  For this current exhibit, she shifts to another medium—neon lights.  The idea of recording text in neon came to her after an evening spent with

Kiri Dalena's Yellow Book of Slogans

Caucasian colleagues in the red light district of Mabini.  Subjected to the indignities that inevitably fall on a young Filipina seen in the company of foreigners, the experience sparked her militant streak, leading to an “aha” moment among the flashing signs.  In her exhibit,  she recreates the tag Liar Liar in neon, appropriated from the Jim Carrey movie by rally participants of a 2004 protest action after the Hello Garci scandal.  Kiri also compiles her collected texts in her Yellow Book Of Slogans.  Playing on one wall is video clip borrowed from ABS-CBN News.  It shows a student protest at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.  The film catches school chairs being hurled from inside the campus, forming a mound of chairs that echo the detritus left from student protests during the Martial Law era.  A sure sign that some things never change.

Neon bright: Liar Liar

Both Leeroy and Kiri return to the gallery for homecoming exhibits after their 2009 Ateneo Art Awards residency grants.  Leeroy spent time in Sydney, at the La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre while Kiri went to Bandung, Indonesia, to the Common Room Networks Foundation.

History in neon

Balete runs from 14 July to 30 October 2010.

Watch History Repeat Itself runs from 14 July to 16 August 2010.

Both shows are at the Ateneo Art Gallery, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.  Phone (632)426-6488 or visit

Video still from installation of "Watch History Repeat Itself"

"Dear Activist Write A Slogan For Me"

Leeroy New Explores The Corporeal

Leeroy New, detail, "Plane of Celestial Delights"

It’s been fascinating to follow Leeroy New’s creative process.  The core of his art stays consistent.  He explores the tenets of Filipino Catholicism and Philippine history and integrates these with his inclination for science fiction.  Continue reading

The Attack of Tatong and Leeroy

Tatong Recheta Torres, "All Star Cast"

Tatong Recheta Torres, "All Star Cast"

At foreground, Leeroy New's "Rust Cloud"

At foreground, Leeroy New's "Rust Cloud"

As a child growing up in downtown Manila, Tatong Recheta Torres would escape into the world of movies.  Enveloped in

Exhibit installation

Exhibit installation

the darkness of Recto Avenue cinemas, his imagination transported him from the bustle of a congested city.   Off he went, out into the realm of Bioman, and Godzilla, Darna and Valentina.

Leeroy New, "Red Venus"

Leeroy New, "Red Venus"

In this show, Odeon Universal Galaxy,  Tatong teams up with Leeroy New.  Their first exhibit together  takes its name  from the most well-known movie theaters in Avenida.  They take us into a flick of their own making, one that brings us to the world of  sci-fi, horror, and Japanese anime they devoured as kids.

Leeroy New, "From the Deep"

Leeroy New, " The Thing From the Deep"

When you walk into Blanc Compound’s main exhibit space, you feel just like Obi Wan and Luke as they enter the cantina in search of Han Solo.  Only a bit less PG.  Tatong’s painting on the center wall, All Star Cast, depicts backstage of a beergarden somewhere across the Milky Way from Pluto.  Leeroy’s human-sized creatures mill around, enjoying the entertainment.

Another view, "Red Venus" and "The Thing From The Deep"

Another view, "Red Venus" and "The Thing From The Deep"

Detail, "The Thing from the Deep"

Detail, "The Thing from the Deep"

Leeroy, himself reared on Blade Runner and The Thing, allows his imagination to take flight once more.  This time, his fiberglass and polyurethane sculpture have more detail.  You can’t help but scrutinize and enjoy the clear figurines he piles atop two of his works, like some sort of space age barnacles.

Leeroy New, "Fear and Desire At the Gate"

Leeroy New, "Fear and Desire At the Gate"

It would’ve been good if Tatong had one other painting.  But perhaps that couldn’t have been helped.  Tatong and Leeroy should make movies more often.  This was so much fun!

Tatong Recheta Torres and Leeroy New

Tatong Recheta Torres and Leeroy New

Odeon Universal Galaxy runs from 24 August to 10 September 2009 at Blanc Compound, 359 Shaw Blvd, Mandaluyong City.  Phone (632)750-0032 or visit

The Ateneo Art Awards 2009

Ateneo Art Awards Short-listed Artists with Judges and Sponsors (photo from R. Jalandoni)

Ateneo Art Awards Short-listed Artists with Fr. Nebres of the Ateneo, Richie Lerma of the Ateneo Art Gallery, judges, and sponsors (photo from Rani Jalandoni)

Michelline Syuco with a piece from "Armadillon"

Michelline Syuco with a piece from "Armadillon"

Well, I got two of the three winners right, and the third I actually picked as a runner-up, so I guess I didn’t do too badly in predicting this year’s recipients of the Ateneo Art Awards.  I had a feeling the two-dimensional pieces would be passed over, no matter how excellently-made.  All in all, the quality of the short-listed artists only bodes well for the future of Philippine art.  I am proud to say I saw all but two of the shows in situ.  It was great to relive them at the Ateneo Art Gallery’s display at Shangri-La Plaza Mall.  Of course the experience does not come close to actually viewing the shows (where was Patty’s lace piano?), but still, you do get a feel for the sensibilities of each of the artists.  How exhilarating to witness the diversity!

Detail from Michelline Syjuco's "Armadillon"

Detail from Michelline Syjuco's "Armadillon", shown at Mag:net


Raul Manzano, Editor-In-Chief of Metro Society, one of the night's sponsors

Raul Manzano, Editor-In-Chief of Metro Society, one of the night's sponsors

Continue reading