Contemporary artists in the Philippines are not limited to those who create in traditional methods. Contemporary artists from the Philippines are also making waves on the international scene. Read on to learn about some of these artists, such as Martha Atienza, Louie Cordero, Gary Ross Pastrana, and Anita Magsaysay-Ho.
Table of contents
Atienza was born in the Philippines to a Dutch mother and a Filipino father. She has lived in both countries and currently divides her time between the Netherlands and the Philippines, depending on the project at hand. Her work explores themes of self-consciousness and community participation. In recent exhibitions, Atienza has worked with local artists on projects that address environmental issues.
In her video installations, Atienza explores the relationship between social and environmental issues in her native Philippines. In 2012, she produced a three-channel video installation called “My Navel is Buried in the Sea.” The work was a success, earning the artist the Ateneo Art Award and studio residencies in New York and Liverpool. The video was created for a local fishing community on Bantayan Island.
Atienza’s work is often a hybrid of traditional and contemporary art. She draws on her Dutch and Filipino heritage to produce works exploring her adopted homeland’s natural and social aspects. In addition to exploring nature and cultural traditions, Atienza also explores transoceanic migration.
Gary-Ross Pastrana is a contemporary artist based in the Philippines who creates abstract images by disassembling and distorting objects. This process alters the object’s meaning and function, revealing its hidden truth. His works are highly regarded, both internationally and locally.
Pastrana has exhibited in many countries, including the Philippines, Singapore, and Hong Kong. He has at least 10 solo exhibitions and has participated in four biennials. Aside from his own art, Pastrana also collaborates with other Filipino artists.
Born in 1977, Pastrana earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in painting at the University of the Philippines. He has also been part of several artist collectives and has participated in many local and international exhibitions; being was selected as the Philippine representative to the Busan Biennale in Korea in 2008 and was selected to participate in the Aichi Triennial in Japan in 2010. He is a co-founder of the Future Prospect Art Space in Cubao, Philippines. His works address the idea of sudden space between broken parts. During an artist residency in Kyoto, he was inspired by Japanese art and culture.
Nona Garcia is another influential contemporary artist in the Philippines. Her paintings are characterized by a riot of color, with kitschy elements and abject absurdity. She often uses found objects in her work, which she views as a part of the culture’s collective memory. The artist has completed several residencies and has received several awards, including the Philip Morris Asian Art Award in 2003 and the Ateneo Art Award in 2011.
A peculiarly strange combination of forms characterizes the work of contemporary artist Louie Cordero. In his paintings, he juxtaposes narrative elements with forms of primitivism and cubism. His abstract landscapes evoke the dreamlike nature of tropical landscapes.
The use of symbols often characterizes contemporary artists, and Louie Cordero has used these symbols to create works of art that are more like machines than murals. His large-scale works have a surreal air and are framed like circuitry. They are a celebration of the Philippines’ energy and its people but often deviate from pre-established templates. While many of his works are still figurative, he has slowly moved away from these in recent years.
Cordero is also an award-winning comic artist. His underground comic book, nardong tae, was published at the age of 22. The comic featured a human turd whose ultimate “life is shit” statement is expressed in its title. His comics and art success have earned him recognition in the Philippines and abroad. He has exhibited throughout Asia, Europe, and Australia. However, he has never forgotten his roots. In fact, he finds the distinction between high and low culture to be irrelevant.
Anita Magsaysay-Ho, a highly influential artist in the Philippines, supported and encouraged the development of contemporary art and Neo-Realist painting. She trained in the United States with Fernando Amorsolo and Fabian de la Rosa. She also attended the Art Students League in New York and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.
Born in the Philippines in 1949, Anita Magsaysay-Ho is a descendant of the late shipping magnate Don Fernando Teodoro Rafael Yangco. Her father was a philanthropist and served as the Philippine Resident Commissioner in Washington, D.C. She began attending the UP School of Fine Arts at age thirteen, accompanied by her nanny. Fabian de la Rosa encouraged Anita to study art in Europe. Later, she studied under Fernando Amorsolo, whose brother Pablo was also an artist. They were both members of the group Thirteen Moderns.
The artist studied fine arts and modern art in the Philippines and then moved to the United States after the war. She later studied painting and drawing at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and the Art Students League in New York City. She later married Robert Ho in 1947, and the two were able to travel to the United States several times.
Rodel Tapaya, a contemporary artist, based in the Philippines, is best known for his enchanting “Folk Narrative” paintings. Tapaya draws from Philippine folkloric traditions and pre-colonial mythology in these works but creates a distinctly contemporary form of myth-making. The paintings, which are often devoid of traditional perspectives, weave together to create epic stories.
Rodel Tapaya received several awards for his art and has been recognized internationally for his work. His works have been included in numerous private collections around the world. He won the 2011 Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize, which recognized his oeuvre as one of the country’s leading contemporary artists.
Tapaya’s paintings comment on the social, political, and environmental realities in the Philippines. His vibrant palette is complemented by his interest in local crafts and local culture. His work also references literary themes that are important to Filipinos. While his works are deeply personal and based in his country, they have a universal message.
Tapaya’s paintings emphasize the interconnectedness of all living things and organic metamorphosis. His painting Manama Abode (2013) shows a petrified human hand giving birth to a bird. Tapaya draws inspiration from Philippine folklore and myths to create his unique style.
Agnes Arellano is a contemporary artist based in the Philippines. She was born in 1949 and came from a prominent family of architects. She studied psychology at the University of the Philippines and went on to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology at the Ateneo de Manila. After graduating from the university, she traveled to Europe during the Holy Roman Catholic Year, where she was inspired by master artists such as Michelangelo and Van Goh.
Agnes Arellano’s work incorporates sacred and mythical themes with physical and erotic themes. She uses a unique blend of personal experience and influences to create some of the most dramatic art in the Philippines. Her works are included in the permanent collections of museums and galleries worldwide.
During her formative years, Arellano experienced tragedy and loss. She lost her parents and sister. While on holiday in Europe, she received news that her house had been burnt down. She remembered the greenery and trees of the countryside, and she recognized the crying baby in the nearby room. Since then, she has sought to show the beauty and the darkness of life as a whole.
Pope Bacay is a contemporary artist from the Philippines, originally from the island of Oriental Mindoro. After graduating from the University of the Philippines’s studio arts program, he had his first solo exhibition the following year. Since then, he has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions. His paintings are both familiar and foreign, filled with nostalgia and melancholy.
Pope Bacay has worked in many different mediums and is noted for his series of paintings focused on his muse. His muse was a scavenger woman he met in 1965. His paintings are figurative in nature, and his subjects are dressed in traditional Filipiniana.
Pope Bacay uses many different mediums for his artwork, including painting and sculpture. His work is renowned for its blending of forms, colors, and shapes. He has a lifelong fascination with monsters and has developed a wide range of work. His pieces have appeared in both local and international exhibitions, and his work is featured in the film Bagani (2018).
Another prominent figure in the Philippine art scene is Oscar Villamiel. He graduated from the University of the East’s Fine Arts Program. He worked as a set designer for several decades before founding a graphic t-shirt company, Artwork. In 2002, he held his first solo exhibition at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and had exhibited in many other countries.