Justo Cascante III's Naked Creature Gets Cozy with Tree

In Justo Cascante III's cartoon-inflected and surrealistic "Dig Life" we have a naked figure halfway up a tree where it sticks its head inside a hole in the trunk. On the other side of the tree-trunk, just about level with our creature's crotch, a water faucet is cheekily attached. Two other sparsely-leaved trees appear in the distance under a bright blue sky dotted with cottony clouds. In this arid land of bare trees, no birds sing, no woodland nymphs prance and no wildlife frolic. The tree seems to be the only source of comfort, sustenance and stability. While the title reminds me of the old hippie slogan: Life's A Garden, Dig It, the landscape here is more T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land."

The artist seems to be saying that Nature, like Art, is our solace from the burdens of existence. Life becomes less intolerable with nature. Nature comforts us if we embrace it. Either that, or it's just funny to watch a naked guy with his head stuck inside a tree!

Justo Cascante shares some thoughts about "Dig Life."

Title. Dimensions. Medium. Year finished.
JC: The title of the work is "Dig Life." 12 x 16 inches , oil on canvas. 2006.

What were you trying to explore with this painting?
JC: I painted this as part of a set I called Happy Painting. There were three important considerations I had in mind when I began this work. I wanted to re-invent, restructure and discover new ways of dealing with form and I wanted to show my fascination with space and color.

I am attracted to the beauty I find in nature. Blue skies and puffy clouds: these are what catches my attention and where time stops for me. Nature transports me--even for just an instant--to a place where I feel that I am part of this world, this life.

Art is an attempt to capture the richness of life's experiences. My art changes as I go along. I do not inhibit this change, it comes as I work and it is as if it has a life of its own as it diverges from what I thought to be my original concepts.

Slowly, I see new forms emerge from my works. The experience of creation and seeing transformations take place before me become a fascination that somehow makes me feel I am no longer the master of my creations, but merely participating in the final outcome. It feels like watching a movie: the impulse and spontaneity of the brush I wield reveals an outcome I had not anticipated.

From the narrative point of view of my works, my concern was how to balance form and substance. I had to be conscious of the visual elements of the story I wished to tell. This reflects my discipline in the field of animation and movie-making, my fascination with illustration and comic books.

Emotions play an important part in art. This painting is part of a collection that was triggered by personal tensions that needed to be released. My works offered me a kind of balance that revealed both the beauty of nature and the poignancy of this life.

What do you intend to say with "Dig Life"?
JC: Like a code that needs to be deciphered, my art can be viewed in many ways. Interpretation becomes the responsibility of my viewers. I leave the dissection to them.

I am a simple man with a complex story. The burden of my complexity is but mine alone. I therefore leave it to the viewers to tease out the narratives from my works.

Were you still in the Philippines when you painted it? Or you were already established in Hong Kong when you made it?
JC: I was already working in Hong Kong for 13 years when I painted it.

Tell us a bit about your current projects. You are a 3D animator?
JC: I was a 3D animator for many years, but now I'm more of an illustrator who occasionally does 3D animation. I just finished a four-man show titled "Chronicles of Pain Colored" at OSAGE Gallery and will join another collaborative work about balikbayan boxes with different Filipino artist mostly based in other countries. I just finished illustrating a book called "Sex in Hong Kong" and now I'm excitedly preparing for my half-bird half-human masked series which tackles hybrid culture.

Where can people go to see your works?
JC: You can visit my website and my illustration blog.

Thank you.

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