The Sad Fluency of Wrapped Objects

The patterns signify the act of covering the identity of an object (like wrapping with cloth or paper in the way that the Egyptians did with their mummies). I want to preserve the object's form but hide its character or features so it becomes like a guessing game: What kind of object is that?

In the community of Gogol, Korea, I asked the residents' help to trace around the shapes of their personal belongings as a way of preserving them as evidence, as a record or proof. Then we drew the shapes with "wrapped patterns" on the wall of a house-like structure (like how cavemen recorded their everyday lives).

I am recording a kind of history in Gogol where people in the community participate in by using everyday objects as proofs of their time, their existence, their milieu. Since a lot of developments are in full swing in Korea, small houses are being knocked down to make way for new and posh buildings. I want to make a marker before Gogol will be razed and transformed into a new and ritzy city, a marker that the community joined in making.—
Mark Salvatus
BY JAY BAUTISTA | Exactly a year ago, this artist statement was written by Mark Salvatus, a 28-year-old artist and curator, for an exhibition entitled "Wrapped" as part of his residency at the Goyang Art Studio Gallery in Seoul, South Korea. The response to his show was overwhelming and it led to artistic collaborations in communities in Bandung, Indonesia and in Barcelona, Spain. In the Philippines, the drawing stretched up to Angono in Rizal and Globo de Oro in Manila.

What makes Mark’s position as an artist significant is that he was born and raised in Lucban, Quezon, and he has a special perspective in that he has been an artist not only in Manila, but abroad as well. Aside from South Korea, Mark’s artistic pursuits have been recognized in Europe. He has been given artists' residencies in Can Serrat International Art Centre in Barcelona, Spain and recently in Bodrum, Turkey, where he got to meet different artists and curators.

He states, “Being in Lucban changed my artistic practice, with the use of different media and experimentation which shows in my current art. My roots will always be in Lucban. As they say, you can take me out of Lucban but you cannot take Lucban out of me.”

As all great artists are born and not made, Mark is not only good with paints and watercolor but even his illustrations have graced numerous books for Filipino children. He has made six children’s books, most of which have won the prestigious Philippine Board on Books for the Young (PBBY) Award like Papa’s House, Mama’s House in 2004 and the National Book Awards for The Cat Painter in 2006.

Mark’s way of giving back to the community is by teaching. His three-year stint in the University of Santo Tomas College of Fine Arts is something he cherishes most. It was there where his theories on art were put to the test. He was even instrumental in increasing UST’s participation to ArtPetron and UST has since made participation in ArtPetron a requirement for its students. A product of this art competition himself, Mark believes that through competitions an artist builds confidence in making and presenting his formal works.

Mark adds, “I also learned not to compete with other artists, but to compete with myself.”

It's not only to adults that he is interested in imparting knowledge. He is also active in Raya, an art school in Quezon City, that advocates Filipino values and history.

On His Mark
Mark is also active in helping many artists' initiative like Tutok and the Pilipinas Street Plan (a community of street artists). Since he is a full-time artist he does many different commissioned jobs like illustrations, designs and others to support his art.

Last February, Mark added another feather to his ever-growing cap—as curator of Common Spot in Tutok: 2tok at the Sambalikhaan Artists' Village in Quezon City. The exhibition, "Common Spot" deals with graffiti/street art which is part-mural painting and part-performance as an artistic practice. Recently, street art has caught the attention of contemporary analysts and even art critics who have begun to see artistic value in some works of graffiti and has recognized it as a form of public art. This means that public walls, traffic signs and buildings are now becoming gallery spaces. Street art empowers groups of artists that have no representations in the formal art world.

Mark considers an older generation of artists like Jose Tence Ruiz, Mideo Cruz and Alfredo Aquilizan as his influences.

Tence Ruiz says, “Mark represents a batch of visual practitioners interested both in the specifically and philosophically personal, as well as the socially sympathetic. He is multi-awarded but more than that, possessed of a ken for exploration, whether it be through painting, utilitarian graphic design, provocative and materially innovative installation and web-based blogging and communication.”

The collaboration for "Wrapped" that started in Seoul, Korea earned Mark the distinction of being one of the ten artists short-listed for the Ateneo Art Awards 2008. Awarding will be on August 7 at the Grand Atrium of the Shangri-La Mall in Mandaluyong.

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