Arturo Sanchez Jr: Apocalypse Now


The past is knowledge
The present our mistake
And the future we always leave too late
I wish we’d come to our senses and see there is no truth
In those who promote the confusion for this ever changing mood.

My Ever Changing Moods
Style Council (1984)

One day everything will be gone at one fell swoop--we will no longer be here.

This factual eventuality has provoked artist Arturo Sanchez Jr. in Unearthed to further investigate our own near extinction by experiencing the various possibilities of resin in art. 

It was his cutouts etched in layered shifting narratives on mirrors that first gained attention for Sanchez; how he carefully composed by transferring each image to suit his desired effect on what it intently reflects to the viewer.

Again as objects of contemplation, Sanchez continues his collage of cutouts from many printing sources with the assumption of man’s inexistence on earth. Layered with resin, he compliments these images with ghoulish and macabre hues evoking an eerie mood reminiscent of the apocalypse being implied on us.  

Excavation Site (Panel 3)

Excavation Site was initially inspired from Steve Cutts’Man, a four-minute video on how man came to destroy his surroundings including himself. Sanchez always had the forced habit of collecting clutter and debris around him--how he likes things that slowly deteriorate or observe them as they physically disintegrate. With his collection accumulating, he thought of creating that ultimate “end of the world” scenario. Meticulously done like a fine draftsman that he is, Excavation Site is collage in three parts covered in clear-cut resin. Emanating a beautiful tragedy where everything will just be covered in debris. With grayish strokes resembling an impending melancholy in our midst, Sanchez reveals all of man’s folly and his greediness will be his own culprit and eventual downfall. With this exposition in ruins, all his secrets will self-destruct in the dustbin of history. 

New Found Specimen. Collage in Clear Cast Resin

With depopulating the earth and a breakdown of urban systems emerged New Found Specimen 1-4. Using huge quantity of images from several references making each perspective an emerging narrative, Sanchez’s imagination is limitless: ranging from flowers blooming from a clot of blood; a tree trunk morphs into another fabled being; a torso becomes a shelter inhabited by earthy creatures. Connoting an aesthetic honed from our diverse experiences of the everyday, he pours in resin into customized frames resulting in a realist play in abstraction. Sanchez would like to consider continuing this into other series in his next forays.

Enduring Decay is an unfolding surreal drama which involves a sculpture of a boy and girl morphed into a tight embrace on a mound full of animal bones and carcasses. A romantic interlude amidst this infatuated setting exuding beauty in impermanence. A lone mythical bird reminding us all that love is fleeting with only the memory of one another remains. Notice how Sanchez brutally finishes off his pieces with black splats even deepening his evocation of the affection between these tragic lovers. 
Enduring Decay
More like science projects Future Past shifts the focus to more ethereal and mundane subjects in everyday objects. Imitating the natural process of amber in archeological diggings this series provides a glimpse of how artists like Sanchez can be as ordinary beings live and how their lives evolved.

Sanchez attempts to achieve the pale yellow orange effect of amber as his resin fossilizes whatever brought to its attention. Attracted to the intricacies of the method he makes up for what his pieces represent. For Sanchez it could be a simple shell or as complex as exploding egg shells; they could also be the tools of his artistic trade as an overused paint brush, rubber roller, cutting tool or his daughter’s favorite shoe. They are all extensions of his being expanding notions of time, space, process, or participation how materials obstruct, disrupt and interfere both with his being a struggling artist and a devoted father.
Future Past (Paint Brush)

The given simplicity of materials is complicated with the adverse complexity of his process. Sanchez considers many factors to its mortality such as the thickness of his layers, the volume in pouring his resin which is controlled by its varying temperature. Depending upon how the material behaves with resin is another difficulty. Before the resin dries up he must paint over his pieces to achieve the amber haze finish. Finally Sanchez polishes to smooth to be lighted on a customized pedestal.

Future Past (Daughter's Shoe)

Coming from a well-appointed position, Sanchez has revived that bygone debate on what and how conceptual art is. For viewers these pieces could be easier seen than done yet it is that element of surprise that grabs them which shows the wit and candor of Sanchez. How each visual and physical memory by the random selection of material evokes like a time capsule is effective in its own context. 

Inspired by the natural desire for the uncharted lies the artistic prowess of Sanchez in capturing what we have been missing out and looking forward to. While 
he makes us conscious of the things we do not see, he transports us to our current actuation and opportunities. With his experiments, we need to step back and marvel at his art’s exuberance for he has captured our evolving mortal transience. In an appropriated time our short lives can be told through Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, but only in Sanchez’s boxes of curiosity and wonder can life be resurrected and celebrated.

Unearthed is ongoing at the West Gallery, West Ave. Quezon City


The Soaring of Little Wing Luna


Second of two parts

The first step is understanding the story. And then it’s finding the places where you think pictures might happen.
Amy Toensing
National Geographic Photographer

It took only two words for first-timer Little Wing Luna to get her US Visa: Bob Dylan. It was her honest and truthful self, as she really wanted to see him playing live in New York summertime last year. 
Her two words got her on that plane on her way to meet the soon-to-be Nobel Prize for Literature. With tattooed wings in her already ink-clad body, she was really destined to fly—literally and figuratively.
A Teenager Waiting for Her Train
As her early years she would volunteer to take photos during family occasions using her camera. She soon attended photography workshops of photojournalists Luis Liwanag and Alex Baluyut and would became part of Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines and now works in documenting activities of a government agency.

As many as the bright lights that glitter its most famous skyline, New York has more than a thousand stories to tell for Luna. And to be an effective photographer and convey her message, she would engage her audience by immersing herself, often asking questions or simply by making them smile.

She opted for the gorier subways, as there was more beneath the main pavements and blind alleys above. Down under you meet the rest of humanity—the struggling, the desperate and the live-for-today being transported to various far points of destinations to and from the city. Such as in the case of A Teenager Waiting for Her Train while Listening to Her Music. Unmindful of her chaotic surroundings marked by spontaneous litter and serious graffiti, her innocence is flanked by silence as evident in her plugged in music.
Everything has Shape, Texture, and Emotions
Luna opted for black and white photography, which is as old a medium as New York itself: “The streets are so amusing to me--every scene, every character, everything with textures, forms, breaths life. It’s sometimes cool to document them with all honesty. In the street, the mundane becomes surreal,” she explains.

One would wonder how long it took for Luna to imbibe the rhythm of these moments that passed by underneath. Reflecting on this kind of personality, can one really decipher if a photograph was taken by a woman? In A Woman with Heavy Load Riding a Train one could as the viewer is quite disturbed to how the lady is burdened by how her bags defines her individuality.

Everything has Shape, Texture and Emotions is a study of contrasts: leopard dress with velvet boots against metal stairs and cemented paths--all unified for one brief captured instance in a frame. 
It was the great Henri Cartier Bresson who defined what he describes as the decisive moment when the photographer’s eye, mind and heart come into focus together on an image compelling enough to inspire the click of a shutter. Photography is mostly about what and how the subjects are going through or the about to action.

If You See Something, Say Something
If You See Something, Say Something, is both uncanny and riveting. It freezes the moment where one descends to the uncertainty of the stairs. Not revealing the face, it is the identity of every man that she could not conceal from the experience.
Favoring musicians Luna could not resist the Purple Haze guitarist in Jimi Hendrix Live in a Subway from her prying yet prowling lens. One can even hear his guitar riff fretting from a far through this image.
Jimi Hendrix Live in a Subway
In time, by the opening and closing of cables Luna has been assured by people’s vibe as patterns of gestures, by the cadence of commuters footsteps, even how their bodies behave alighting and descending the stairs, how fatigue and weariness that takes the shape of their seats. Passengers on Board the Train is one such beautiful instance.
While Santos’ titles are irrelevant assigning only numbers to them, Luna can be as literal as to how she titles her images. Luna is the kind of storyteller unraveling the mystery of the everyday, the familiar in these remotest of places.

“Not really, to be honest. I just want to document the things i see and experienced. Having a cam with me is like carrying my cigs in my bag. I never ever leave home without it,” she adds.

If You Make it Here, You Make it Anywhere
Santos and Luna first foray was Chasing Quotidian three years ago in vMeme Contemporary Art Gallery in Quezon City. Showing their strong feminist perspectives, it was a well-accepted exhibit and affirmation of their passion for their art.

“I really don’t limit myself in photography. I shoot everything and anything; I experiment with my styles, angles, and perspectives. For me photography must be free from all limitations, be spontaneous and unexpected,” she says.  
Passengers on Board

Luna who currently documents various programs for a government agency photography is more like responsibility. Every minute an action happens and one must be ready to shutter and not leave tables perturbed.  One must live to fight another day. Yet Luna still leave something for the viewer Movie Series on Subway Walls.

Luna believes everybody has its own style, the same way as you tell your story as you take your shots: “I got a lot. I guess. I looked at their photos and I’m amazed always, but I believe everybody has its own style. It’s like telling a story, the way you tell your story is the same as taking your shots.”

Notice how none of the New York landmarks were seen in this exhibit, which was a giveaway and we could marvel at them. However Santos and Luna have captured New York the hard way and in a less postcard pretty manner. Some may not be please. Other may opt to call it pure talent. Enough said.

Note: Much has happened since viewing the exhibition on a Thanksgiving last year. From writing before and now Trump and Duterte presidencies all while basking in the scorching heat of May. At any rate be it in New York or in Manila, both Santos and Luna can be found shooting in the streets. In fact Luna was recently named among eight Filipinas for the International Photography Awards.


J.A. Santos: Her Loaded Camera


First of two parts

Where the Streets Have No Name

Review of If You See Something,

Say Something by J.A. Santos 

and Little Wing Luna

Oarhouse Pub in Malate Manila 

December 2016-February 2017

It is not your usual art exhibition to start with. Photography, by two women, and held in a bar. Although a popular one, frequented by photographers and youth alike. Typical place that Tony Bourdain discreetly chooses when he come visits.

Though the New York-theme was a dangling come on, for their second joint show, it was a conscious, even a conspicuous plan for J.A. Santos and Little Wing Luna: To meet up in New York on the summer of July and shoot scenes/sins from the famous city--the New York moment so to speak.

At a glance, one notices how parallel their lives are. The ones that they bring to their stories both being freelance photojournalists. 

Santos as a seasoned traveler, almost the native Nuyorker who regularly visits her extended family. Luna, on the other hand, comes to the Big Apple for the first time. While Santos opted for color and above the streets Luna digs deeper into the long and longing subway culture. While Santos experiences the hustle and bustle, the dynamism of the streets; Luna dwells within the murky lurid quagmire and monotonous and excruciating life of daily commuting.

Travel writer and columnist A.A. Gil was in his usual snootiness when describing New York: It is a club you have been a member for a long time. It is the stage of our collective dramas. You can hate America but love New York. New York is not related at all with her.
“When you are visitor to a city you like to hurry up the habits, lay down a pattern, gain predictability in place of roots.” added the late columnist adds. 

Embracing multiculturalism is one of the best things New York has to offer. In fact recent study Queens for its size has one of the diverse places on earth in terms of language, has in fact 800 languages. All the more makes every photographer attend to its unexpected details.

JA Santos: Her Loaded Camera 

Starting late in High School from her teacher who only taught her the basics, Santos liked what she called the “magical” process of the craft. Though Santos did not completely pursue photography then, due to the cost of printing it, he was happy with her point and shoot camera.


She explains further: Using a camera as a creative tool was a way to explore and discover not just life, scenes, and stories around me but also aspects of my inner self that I had neglected for years — a way to grapple with things outside of me and deep within and develop my ways of seeing, reading, reacting to, and interpreting various aspects of culture and society. 

Without formal training Santos continued to pursue photography in the streets for it being light inexpensive, and spontaneity. Open to discovery, one must have the curiosity and patience to see something interesting or unexpected. In the streets one has to be fast for that spur-of the-moment frames. Quick and skillful enough in capturing capture it.

Santos is versed on how to layer contrasting textures furthering the dialogue that emits the viewer. Photo 008 depicts the weariness of a lady against the window as backdrop showcasing an artificial plethora of what America has to offer. Her sharp features wrought with anxiety exude tension alarming what may possibly disturb what was supposed to be conventional pleasantness of a picture. Photo 014 continues the uneasiness this time counterpointing black female with white male vis-à-vis the signage Time in Style. The witty play in images something only a versed photojournalist can execute. In describing how she finds such coincidence sharing the frame. 

While my first love in photography is the genre of candid street photography,” Santos explains further, “I have work that overlaps or merges into art, social commentary, and documentary photography/photojournalism.” 


Her favored subject of juxtaposing the old and the new is once again exemplified in Photo 009. A vandalized red antique lamppost partly hides a millennial boy in yellow. Such simplicity easily results in loaded interpretations. One assumes partly as a voyeur, partly interrogator inquiring further about the situation at hand, of what is about to happen. Santos leaves much to her viewers, as much to her subjects. This is how Santos behaves in her shoots: she is a few moments before what other photographers will grapple with.

Santos often indulges in hints and accents such as that omnipresent blue sky as reflected on the building in Photo 045. Again Santos leaves much of the mystery to be noticed. Her readiness is she is a step before what others will find the standard image. With respect and indulgence as seen in that boy being enveloped like a matador by the gushing afternoon breeze, Photo 012 is like a few minutes before the actual take when the cameras roll action. Santos genius catches this.

Married to graphic and book designer Jordan, both have Santos prefers shooting alone. One must be comfortable with spending long hours in solitude if one would want to pursue street photography.

On the other hand, collaboration and solidarity are also vital to her activities, which is why having a joint-exhibit with a photographer friend and showing work to and being with other artists, photographers, and photojournalists are also enlightening experiences for her.


“When I rediscovered photography in 2010, I was more familiar with the work of painters and other artists, not photographers. So probably some of my visual influences are artists whose work I’ve admired over the years such as Matisse, Caravaggio, Rene Magritte, Edward Hopper and the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Wong Kar-wai, Akira Kurosawa, and other directors. Later, when I began to actively research and read about photography, I would gravitate toward the work of Robert Frank, Alex Webb, William Albert Allard, William Eggleston, Garry Winogrand, David Alan Harvey, Duane Michals, Nan Goldin, and Philip Jones Griffiths, among others,” explains Santos on her influences.  


Even the theme of love never escapes an intended pun for Santos. As their turn their backs to the viewer Photo 022 emphasizes what the sign on the upper right signage: collect what you love. It seems the man patiently waits for her ladylove to choose among the array of books being sold. Or was she just bidding time?

Santos has always been fascinated with the everyday and the mundane such as work and daily activities, commuting, habits, gestures, manners, signs, texts, and objects which she expresses reveal much about our society, culture, politics, traditions, institutions, and the systems in which we operate and which have a profound influence on our lives. She has even dealt with complex and current political issues such as mental illness displaced communities to street protests to the changes that cities undergo. 
Santos only needs four colors to interpret the world with just a loaded camera in hand.


Vision Petron: Fifteen Artists for the First Fifteen


It’s that intangible quality in a painting, a quality so distinct, so unique that onlookers would say, ‘Now that’s a Filipino painting!’

Arturo Luz, 1953

A recent study conducted by the University of Oxford concluded that it is neither class nor status that makes one an artist. Rather it is in the manner one is educated that inspires him; how conducive his community influences him that enables his thoughts and feelings expressed on canvas or paper and create value in art. 
When Vision Petron National Student Art Competition (formerly called ArtPetron) was conceptualized 15 years ago, its sole desire was to inspire the next generation of painters to hone their art, excel and n the process, rediscover and appreciate Filipino culture, the long-time advocacy of Petron. While other existing art contests catered only to fine arts students, Vision Petron opened the opportunity to all college students and those enrolled in a museum-based art classes believing that creativity is not exclusively confined in artist studios and the academe. Petron thus positioned itself as an art patron of the talented youth.

In the course of running the contest we have been witness to some young artists who have shown promise at the onset of their soon-to-be flourishing careers. Here are fifteen of our best painters who we had the privileged of seeing them break their first light in art.    

El Viaje Familoia by John Paul Antido

John Paul Antido is a hall famer having won in 2002 and 2005. A member of Antipolo-based Sanviaje Japs has a peculiar style of painting which is done by impasto technique laying thick paint with finite textured brushstrokes using vivid colors with light hues. With five solo exhibitions travelling has been his constant theme. He has also done illustrations for a children’s book and lately he has dabbled photographer where portraiture is his forte. His paintings were recently featured in a children’s book.


Manwal by Robert Besana
One of our first grandprize winner in 2001, Besana has always investigated the contemporary possibilities of materiality and perception. His winning work Manwal makes the viewers rotate their gaze as he captures children play a game of slippers giving this a unique perspective. He is now a director at the School of Multi-Media Arts at the Asia Pacific College where he is respected and has proven the best teachers of art are those that actively practice it.

Multi-media preoccupies Buenconsejo’s work while employing his deep foundation for photography where he was first recognized being first hall of fame in this category. He has won the Ateneo Art Awards two consecutive years and has done residencies in Visual Arts Center in La Trobe University in Australia. His art was shown in his solo exhibitions such as Unending Void, Destination Unknown, and Reality is a Hologram is infused with his inquiries on science. Sometimes to question is enough response. 
Children of the Fields by Charles Buenconsejo

 JOEY COBCOBO (b.1983)
The call of the indigenous is intrinsic to Cobcobo who come from a lineage of Ifugao wood carvers in the north. He has rediscovered his technique by employing a multiple layer of images done thou various media done in heavily indented prints. His subject matter pays homage of his tribal roots to the personal relationships we Filipinos value like our elderly and families. A CCP 13 Artists Awardee he now teaches in his alma mater Technological University of the Philippines.

                                                                   MARK ANDY GARCIA (b.1984)
Punong Puno ng Pag-ibig by Mark Andy Garcia
A graduate of Technological University of the Philippines, Mark Andy Garcia has won three runners up and a grand prize win. A recent CCP 13 Artists Awardee for 2015, he won grandprize in Metrobank Art and Design Excellence in 2007 and Juror’s Choice Award of Excellence for Philip Morris in 2008. Garcia paints autobiographical works bordering on his personal tragedies and joys despite the ruggedness and the raw texture of his works Garcia remains optimistic in his process, a kind of salvation Garcia wants us all to have.

What make Vision Petron unique is it is open also to students of museum-based painting classes where we discovered homegrown talents like Florentino Jun Impas. One of Cebu’s most sought after artist. He is also portraitist of choice of cardinals, bishops and has even been invited to the Vatican for a sit down with the religious there. Impas has done the official portrait of St. Lorenzo Ruiz of what we all are familiar with. He had significant solo exhibitions at the SM Art Center in 2009- “Portraits and Figures” and 2011- “Circle of Life”, Metropolitan Museum of Manila and 2014- “Kalendaryo Festival”, SM Art Center, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City. This year he participated in painting Art and Anthropology at the Chicago Field Museum Mural Painting “Art ad Antropology” in the United States of America.
Salon is a hall of famer having won in 2005 and 2010. Mark by his own realism and monotone palette, Salon is old school with his palette focusing on children and their plight and welfare. He has had solo exhibitions at the SM Art Center, Nineveh Art space and Singapore. He won in Sining PSE National Art Competition and the Miguel Malvar National Art Competition.
Balwarte ni Lolo, Aming Munting Kastilyo by Mark Salvatus
Even when he joined ArtPetron and submitting wall bound paintings, Salvatus was always one step ahead of his contemporaries. For his winning piece in ArtPetron 2 he used red car paint Salvatus won the most white he etched with a white primary base his figures to come up with a toned down but still celebratory image of the Pahiyas from his hometown in Lucban. Always on the experiment for new technologies to debunk old myths found in history or even memory, he now and then gets to be invited in biennales and residencies while keeping his focus on his contemporary practice here. A product of UST Fine Arts where he taught for a time, Salvatus is a CCP 13 Artists Awardee and runs his art collective 98B virtually or wherever he is. 
Sanchez is proof that someone so technical can be the most artistic. Sanchez took up architecture at the Technological Institute of the Philippines. Mirrors have always fascinated Sanchez in fact his pieces are meticulously done by etching selected magazine images to reflect his art on the mirror. Based in the art town of two national artists, Sanchez has exhibited in local galleries and his artworks have participated in the auction houses in Hong Kong and Singapore. He won the Grand prize Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards 2013.
Market in Motion by Paul Quiambao
 CJ DE SILVA-ONG (b. 1987)
De Silva-Ong is a graduate of UP Diliman College of Fine Arts and award winning creative director at TBWA\Digital Arts Network. Right after graduating, she handling brands where she has been recognized in local and international shows: she has won in AdFest, Spikes Asia, One Show, D&AD and is part of the team that bagged the country's first Webby.

CJ is also a well-known painter. Versatile in her own illustration, her book covers for Sen Miriam Santiago “Stupid is Forever” have recently been lauded.

Ober Ober by Orley Ypon
Social realism served its artistic purpose the turbulent times during Martial Law. With its strong political content the movement’s aesthetics revolves around anatomies of people as allegories to the dark perils of our country. Jeresano is a proud heir to social realism as his images speak of  our emancipation as a nation. He has won other major art competition and had solo exhibitions locally and abroad. 
RAFFY NAPAY (b. 1986)
From two-dimensional works, EARIST graduate Napay shifted into threads and fabrics into his canvases. Often dealing with his personal life, he stitches, tufts and weaves stories from memory. He has won in Metrobank Arts and Design Excellence, Ateneo Art Awards 2013. He had artist residencies in Artesan Gallery and Studio in Singapore in 2013 and Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool United Kingdom last year. He just attended the Florence Biennale in Italy. 
JAMES ONA (b. 1986)
Tulay ng Kalakalan at Hanap Buhay by James Ona
Despite the surplus of the DSLR cameras it takes an amount of time and dedication for a master lensman to emerge. Trained as a photojournalist in his alma mater PUP Manila, Ona would eventually cover more important events for his corporate clients. He does art photography for Studio 5 Designs coffee table book projects. He continues to work and teach for PUP Manila.

There are only three photographers in this list Quiambao is the one who seeks to elevate photography the most into an art form it rightfully deserves. School spirit runs deep for him UST in particular where he graduated with a degree in architecture. With his loyalty and perseverance Quiambao has been bestowed as UST’s quadricentennial photographer during its celebration in 2011. Motion and depth best describe his images. Remote islands has of late fascinated him most specially Batanes which he has visited many times over and he has photographed extensively.

ORLEY YPON (b.1973)
When Ypon won in the first ArtPetron in 2001 National Artist Napoleon Abueva commented that “he has Amorsolo’s light.” Based in Cebu, Orley is one of ArtPetron’s first grand prize winners and our first hall of famer for painting. A self-taught artist, realism has been Ypon’s trademark having been influenced by the master Martin Abellana. He has had an art residency last year at the Artist Renewal Center in New York. Our first hall of famer in Painting Ypon has come full circle as was our judge in the recent and previous Vision Petron. His first solo exhibition Bidlisiw (
-->sunrise) at the Altro Mondo Gallery is still ongoing.