Some might say that the hardest part of creating art is figuring out how to begin. Budding artists in this age of information and no clear genre boundaries seem to have an infinite number of choices at their fingertips. And with all these possibilities comes conflict: the instinct to conform clashing with the desire to strike out on one’s own.
But through valuing both the beautiful and the grotesque, through obscuring as a means of revealing, through the belief that the pursuit of originality still does exist—these artists have found their footing. The results are nothing short of totally memorable.
Inverted Fishnet Catches the Cloud Better (Richter swirl 4) 60×48 inches, Synthetic Polymer Paint, Gel Medium on Canvas 2017
Though Gino Bueza frequently finds inspiration from random thoughts and phrases he encounters in the everyday, each of his ideas finds its real function soon after. His stray observations eventually attach themselves to topical subjects, and from there they evolve into lively, multilayered paintings and prints. If he doesn’t find something to talk about, his ideas begin to critique themselves, his process turning inward. For Bueza, to comment and critique is an artist’s duty. “‘Yung pagiging artist ngayon, mas importante ‘yung relevant ka,” he says. “‘Yun ‘yung sina-strive ko bilang creator. Kailangang may maka-relate.”
Purpose and Possibility Sheets, Synthetic Polymer Paint on canvas 60×48 inches 2018
But Bueza’s works don’t just assemble a series of recognizable images. He requires his pieces to have a fresh approach, an interesting angle that makes familiar elements less obvious and more evocative. He mentions modern political art and how much of it relies on the same images, so the message begins to dilute. To avoid this, Bueza keeps his pieces busy, forcing the viewer to associate a familiar image with unfamiliar surroundings. “Naniniwala ako na may something na hindi pa nata-tackle,” he claims. “‘Yun din ‘yung goal: i-pinpoint ‘yung mga bagay na ‘yun.” The effect is as close to originality as an artist can get. —Emil Hofileña
GIAN MIROE SURBAN
“Parang ayoko na ng masaya,” says Gian Miroe Surban. He’s at a point where the bright colors and the pure realism he started with have started to fall away. “‘Pag masaya ‘yung subject mo, alam mo agad na masaya. ‘Pag seryoso, ‘di mo alam kung ano ba ‘yong nasa kanya.” Dark is perhaps the simplest term to describe his oil paintings today, figuratively and literally. And he knows it—even situates his ruminations on the self and its surroundings in the context of his own studio. A shadowed figure stretching canvas cloth across a frame; a man piercing himself with a scraper, dusky fluid gushing out in a spray; a look into a painter’s brushes and tools, where a human heart, a crucifix, and a kid’s drawing also lie. His own self-portrait depicts himself painting another self-portrait, the half-finished figure on the canvas within the canvas seeming to stare directly at the observer. “Mahirap ang paggawa ng mukha, pero paborito ko sa process,” says Miroe Surban. “Mukha tsaka mata. Kasi ‘pag [kuha mo ang] mata, kuha mo talaga lahat… Iyon ang nilalabas ko sa painting: ang dinadala ng mga tao sa sarili nila. Ang dark flesh ng mga tao, at ang iba-ibang kulay sa loob.” —Patricia Chong
(L-R) My Influence is Myself, oil on canvas 2018 | Which version of you is the right one, oil on canvas 2018
BUKLAT, Ink on Paper 2018
“Para sa akin, ‘di ko trip kung gusto ng tao.” It is unclear if this is Rasel Trinidad speaking, or his alter ego Doktor Karayom, or both. He explains the origins of his distinctively grotesque illustrations: his interests in street art and horror movies combined with a desire to be more fearless. His works are typically small, crude, and to the point—an echo of the doodles he would have to hide from his boss at his old office job. Trinidad came to embrace this rebellious side, creating a new persona in the form of Doktor Karayom.
sa loob ng aking pangalan, ink on paper 2008
But as Karayom, it is not Trinidad’s goal to simply be shocking. He sees his art—usually drawn exclusively in red ink—as a way to twist beauty, to expose reality to the desensitized. “Kaya kong magsalita para sa mga ‘di kayang magsalita,” he says. Though his illustrations are often surreal, he captures the absurdity of everyday life more accurately than many of his contemporaries. And he wouldn’t be able to do it with just one side of himself. “‘Pag nawala ‘yung isa, hindi na balanse,” he explains. “Tingin ko ‘di rin ako pababayaan ni Karayom. At ‘di rin siya pababayaan ni Rasel.” —EH
Hindi Ko Kasalanan Maging Makasalan, Oil on Canvas 36”x48” 2017
You don’t see a lot of faces in Kiko Urquiola’s work. Often, they are hidden away, be it by canvas cloth or detailed blots of paint. “Naka-cover ‘yung dapat makikita,” says the artist. “Doon na lang sa posing ng tao makikita iyong concept ko.” And while the reason for covering faces is first and foremost practical, to protect the stories of his models, it has in a way freed Urquiola’s own explorations of anything from mental illness to prostitution to the very process of creating art. A man and a woman stand side by side, linked by their hands and by the single canvas cloth wrapped around both their heads. A masked man sits on a chair, and hanging behind him is a wall of twisted cloth—in the spaces between them are clenched fists, eyes looking out. He shows the lives of people, the tools of his trade, the backs of canvases, the walls of his studio—always in muted colors and delicate shadows lending each piece an air of both simplicity and mystery. “Alam mo ang story ng gawa mo, pero kung babanggitin, parang kulang—ang hirap mag-explain,” he says. “Parang mas okay na nakikita lang. Doon mo naman dapat makita ‘yung kwento.” —PC
Basta! Magulo!, Oil on Canvas 48”x36” 2017
Read the full story in Rogue’s Art and Travel Issue, on stands now.