Focus London 2023 Concluded with White Walls Gallery Zeroing in on Philippine Contemporary Art
Focus London 2023, a groundbreaking multidisciplinary art fair that zeroes in on digital and traditional contemporary art from around the world, kicked off during the first week of October at the iconic Saatchi Gallery. White Walls Gallery, the Philippines’ sole representative to Focus London 2023, presented “Leuco Dye,” a group exhibition featuring two-dimensional works by six Filipino contemporary painters. Utilizing the metaphor of leuco dyes to explore the complexity of the Philippine urban experience, German S. Camigla, founder of White Walls Gallery, curated a show that frames contemporary Philippine urban life through diverse lenses. In varying hues, intensities, iconographies, and aesthetic sensibilities, Lynyrd Paras, Arianna Bongato, Demi Padua, Julius Redillas, Jayson Cortez, and Joshua Torres provided snapshots of the multi-faceted experience of working and residing in Manila, the world’s most densely populated (and arguably most misunderstood) metropolis.
“Leuco Dye” presented works that focused on the Philippine experience in an urban context—an experience that is often exoticized or overlooked. The title itself, inspired by leuco dyes that can switch between chromatic and colorless states, symbolizes the transformation of the previously unseen or undervalued into something vivid and fully recognized.
The participating artists presented their own framing of the contemporary Filipino urban experience through various styles and mediums. As a way to comment on the oftentimes jarring juxtaposition of vintage and contemporary objects and spaces in Manila, Jayson Cortez imbues his photorealistic paintings with a sense of “magical surrealism” and nostalgia through the extensive use of universal and distinctly Filipino symbols. Lynyrd Paras, known within the Metro Manila art scene for his psychological portraits, presented figurative works that express the rampant internal attrition and decay at the core of contemporary urban life. Joshua Torres’ surreal imagery featuring miniature naked figures juxtaposed against larger-than-life food and tableware, invite contemplation on desire, decadence, and consumption. Demi Padua’s works echo the vivacity of child-like imagination by creating whimsical compositions wherein achromatic portraits are embellished with an eclectic assortment of vibrant images borrowed from pop culture. Arianna Bongato appropriates classical imagery to create fantastical worlds that are structured like flamboyant Pinterest boards, a process that brings to the foreground Gen Z’s rampant consumption and manipulation of digital imagery. As a grotesque visual commentary about the voyeuristic and oftentimes exploitative tendencies of postmodern society, Julius Redillas presented phantasmagoric portraits that present human subjects with faces stripped off the outermost layer of skin.
Providing viewers in Focus London 2023 with a diverse collection of contemporary figurative paintings that speak of the multi-faceted story and the frantic energy of Manila, “Leuco Dye” is a polychromatic lens through which Philippine urban life is reimagined with all its unique beauty, grit, and chaos.
“I believe it’s paramount that, wherever possible, Filipino artists are represented in international art fairs not only to showcase their talents but also to share our culture.”German S. Camigla
Having initially carved a niche in the Manila art scene as a gallery that is solely focused on contemporary figurative paintings, White Walls Gallery’s current commitment to pushing boundaries in art and technology echoes the multidisciplinary trajectory of Focus London 2023.
Encouraging the exploration digital technology and other non-conventional mediums in contemporary art, White Walls Gallery’s October calendar features a curated exhibition titled “Masters: Visions Through Time” which features a hologram installation by Illinois Institute of Art—Schaumburg and Buckinghamshire New University alumnus, Hamill Buyco. By referencing René Magritte’s iconic pipe in his 1929 painting “The Treachery of Images”, Buyco’s hologram installation further blurs the distinction between an object, its painted image, and its digital reconstruction. The show also features multidisciplinary contemporary works by Eugenia Alcaide, Patrick de Veyra, Alab Pagarigan, Vincent Diñoso, Sarah de Veyra-Buyco, Rafael Legarda, Madonna Mortera, Daniel Natividad, and Roberto Villalpando Sepúlveda. White Walls Gallery’s October calendar concludes with the immersive solo exhibition by Arianna Bongato titled “Sip Slowly” featuring her signature flamboyant and fantastical mixed media paintings belonging to the same series as her featured work at Focus London 2023.
By encouraging the development of both traditional and non-conventional forms of contemporary art, White Walls Gallery is driven to blaze new trails in the local and regional art scenes by creating avenues for growth and exploration for Filipino and Asian contemporary artists working with a wide range of processes, materials, and technologies.
“Part of our mandate as lovers of art is to figure out ways to share to as many audiences as possible works by Filipino artists. The art community should continue to expect that White Walls Gallery will continue to push the envelope in terms of finding opportunities, guiding artistic development, and providing platforms for the Filipino artists so that they would be rightfully celebrated not only in the Philippines but in every corner of the globe. This is our passion and our commitment.”German S. Camigla
Follow @whitewallsgallery on Instagram or visit their website whitewallsgallery.art for more information on White Walls Gallery’s local and international exhibitions for 2023 and 2024.
Photos Courtesy of the Author