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Manila through the lens of artists 

August 19, 2017

Digital Reporter

Cover Erka Capili Inciong

Filipino artists have often drawn inspiration from so‑called country life. It shows in the soft hues in Fernando Amorsolo’s paintings and the art in our currency.

But inspiration can also be found in the oft maligned Metro Manila. In the exhibit Manila: Hidden in Plain Sight at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila are several art pieces about life in the busiest part of the Philippines.

Art Manix Abrera

During the exhibit opening, Manix Abrera, whose Kikomachine and News Hardcore comics have become mirrors of the frazzled but humorous lives of college students and newbie journalists, arrived at the museum first, just before the rain started. He watched a few films at the CineMET exhibit, eluding museum staff until it was time to start to program. The man who draws comics about life in the news room became the topic of lifestyle news. “For me, Manila is inspiring because of the stress and the mess, it’s a very very busy place,” he said in an interview with SparkUp. “But underneath all that you can find something that’s very Pinoy. You can find some humor in it, but it’s also kind of deep. Labo ano?” The busy lifestyle of millennials and our penchant for the instant also lends itself to art created by our generation. “Right now we’re used to things being fast, we’re used to the instant we want messages that are quickly conveyed,” Mr. Abrera said. “But before, people lived at a slower pace. Artists are the same, I think.”

Art Leeroy New

Contemporary artist‑designer Leeroy New graciously explained his featured creation to museum guests: The Bakawan Floating Island Project, which was made through the combined efforts of his designs and vision, a grant from the Burning Man Festival, the Metro Manila Development Authority, and the Pasig community, to name a few. The project was meant to raise awareness about Pasig River, to encourage people to help in its rehabilitation. Mr. New said that Manila is a mess, and that's precisely why it inspires art. “Manila is one big design problem so it needs all the help and creative solutions that it can get,” he told SparkUp. “There are so many different approaches in doing work in Manila, especially when it comes to the creative industry. But definitely artists are more proactive when they do work in Manila because Manila is one big cry for help.” Modern technology, he said, gave current artists more tools in making masterpieces, which is apparent in The Bakawan Floating Island Project, which is an example of what metalwork, murals, engineering and performance art can do together.

Art Dina Gadia

Meanwhile, Dina Gadia , the woman whose family hails from Pangasinan, took solace at the Distinct Refinements: Paintings from the Provinces exhibit, a stone’s throw from her framed sketches. Ms. Gandia's art is reminiscent of old comic books, the kind we used to buy for less than a peso, innocent and fantastic until you stare at it for too long. There’s an edge of darkness in Ms. Gandia’s art, most obvious in a piece called Deathscape, collage of colorful cliff sides that are innocent enough if it wasn't for the title. Like Mr. Abrera, Ms. Gadia attributed her need to create art to the need to cope with stress. As for what separates the artists of the new generation with the old? “We’re more carefree,” she said. “That’s both a positive and negative thing.”

The Manila: Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila until August 26.