Martin Honasan’s Art Contemplates Morality, Spirit Through the Face

Martin Honasan approaches portraiture with damage as his starting point and disrepair as his guide

by Mixkaela Villalon, photo by JL Javier

Using a psychological phenomenon known as facial pareidolia, Martin Honasan approaches portraiture with damage as his starting point and disrepair as his guide


Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.10.51 PM

Since he first broke out in the art scene in 2002, Martin Honasan has been busy. His watercolor renditions of photography-based street scenes have evolved into a near obsessive focus on faces. This is Honasan honing himself, streamlining his work, eschewing details he believes to be superfluous, and guiding his audiences to the heart of his expression. “I feel I don’t need a torso or too many appendages to state what I want to convey in my paintings,” he says. “Portraits contain all the elements I need.”

Honasan credits the shift in his artistic process to his wife, musician and artist Barbie Almalbis. “Her songs begin with chords and meaningless syllables, until familiar words finally take shape around the music. In my opinion, it’s very reminiscent of the abstract expressionists in the US in the 1940s. Her approach really inspired me to rethink my own creative process.”

His recent exhibit, Everything is Created Twice, held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines early this year, featured portraits overlaid on distressed and reconstructed canvases that had collected residual paint. From this expressionist exercise, Honasan lets his mind find facial characteristics from random patterns in a psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia.

Honasan begins his work by scrutinizing textures, cutting up canvasses, and producing folds and wrinkles before putting brush and paint to work in rendering faces in the chaos. Through this, he admits to examining the contrast between freedom and boundaries—the freedom to find familiar images where there are none, and the boundaries of a blighted canvas.

Like his art style, the expressions of his portraits are complex and multilayered, exuding pensiveness, melancholy, concern, and contempt. He draws inspiration from the faces of family and friends, the people he holds close. “I’ve ascribed so much meaning to the minute details of their expressions, to highlight the subtleties of their faces,” says Honasan.

His exhibits this October—Shadows of Things to Come in Boston Gallery and An Other in Vinyl on Vinyl—will continue his exploration of portraiture, albeit with different themes. Shadows will feature works that reflect on morality and the search for perfection, while An Other will be comprised of meditations between the physical self and spiritual consciousness.

“The main subjects are still centered around faces,” Honasan says. “But I’ve been slowly getting used to incorporating recognizable portions of my own face in the pieces. I rarely see myself when I am waiting for a face to surface from the textures.”

ROGUE FEED Martin Honasan

Shadows of Things to Come opened on October 10 at Boston Gallery (#72 Boston Street, Cubao, Quezon City). An Other opens on October 21 at Vinyl on Vinyl (2135 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati). 

This article first appeared in Rogue’s 2015 Design Issue, now available on newsstands and digitally on Get immediate access every month to intelligent storytelling, world-class photography, and in-depth profiles on the country’s influencers for $1 less per issue by subscribing now to Rogue Magazine for iPad, now available on Apple’s App Store.