30.3.13

The Caricatured Life of Kristoffer Tolentino

BY JAY BAUTISTA |

The more the world (or should we say artworld) advances the more one appreciates illustrators and the old manual labor that they do.

Considering himself a painter, sculptor, installation artist, art/music instructor and a digital art practitioner, 28 year-old Kristoffer Tolentino is foremost a caricaturist churning out masterpieces from acrylic and ink on canvases. At a young age he already manifested a passion for doodling characters in his neighborhood of Bahay Toro in Quezon City.

“Lahat ng tao may istorya. Ang sarap i-drawing ng mga buhay-buhay at mga pangyayari sa araw-araw na di na gaano napapansin dahil sa sobrang pagkaabala natin sa mundo,” laments Kristoffer.

He adds: “Nung bata pa ko mahilig na ko gumawa ng mga drawings na punong-puno ng mga maliit na tao at ikwini-kwento ang buhay nila sa pamamgitan ng pagguhit. Ginagawa kong caricature lahat ng nakikita kong mga tao at sila ang ginagawa kong mga character sa aking nililikha. Nag-iba lang ako ng estilo nung mag-fine arts at na diskubre ang mga iba pang estilo. Nakagawa na ko ng mga artworks na gamit ang estilong surrealism, realism, abstract, mixed media at iba-iba pa at kahit sculpture. Pero bumabalik pa rin ako sa caricature na ganitong estilo ko dahil dito na rin ako nakilala.”

Super Juan, 2012 (Acrylic on Canvas, 4ft x 5 ft)

Having met Kristoffer during his student days at the University of the East Caloocan College of Fine Arts, I was amazed at how his creative practice has fully evolved and how he constantly improves himself by each artwork done. He just finished a commissioned piece Super Juan (3ft x 4ft acrylic on canvas) when we recently touch based last year. Known for his deep sentiments in every piece he makes, he confesses:

“Si Super Juan ay hango sa isang super hero. Ngunit hindi siya iisang tao lamang, kundi binubuo at sinisimbulo ng bawat Pilipinong nangangarap. Gumagawa sila nang may pagkakaisa at nagtutulungan upang makabuo ng isang matatag at malayang bayang puno ng pag-asa. Naniniwala ako na may Super Juan sa bawat isang Filipino.”

Noticing the tediousness in his work process, Kristoffer illustrates directly on canvas without an aid of scratch pad or even pencil: “Gumagamit muna ko ng ink/ ballpen pang sketch. Hindi ako gumagamit ng lapis dahil ayoko nagbubura. Bukod sa nakakadumi ng artwork, tumagal ang pagtatapos ko sa isang piesa. Minsan nga iniiwan ko na lang yung marka ng ballpen.

Pagkatapos nung sketch, kinukulayan ko na per scene yung ginagawa ko. Mas di nakakasawa kung pa-eksena eksena ang pagkukulay. The medium that I use is acrylic combined with different colored inks. I chose acrylic to paint the canvas for the first coating with heavy colors then wash style for the second coat. I made it detailed by using colored ink and lastly, for the final touch I scratched blade to the canvas to add highlights and life to the painting.

Parang akong nag-oopisina kung magpinta. Simula alas-8 nang umaga pagka-almusal tapos break ng lunch. Pinta uli hanggang hapunan. Madalas overtime pa after dinner.”


Lakbay Diwa, 2012 (Acrylic and Ink on Canvas)


Another whimsical study of life’s imaginative ironies is Lakbay Diwa: “Tungkol sa paglalakbay ng diwa sa isang malayang bansa. Malayang tumawa, maglaro gumawa at higit sa lahat malayang mangarap. Pinalad itong 3rd place sa Maningning Miclat Art Award 2012 na ‘Ang Pangarap kong Bayan’ ang tema.”

Kristoffer’s influences are as varied as the theatricality of his people. Obvious are the vivid cartoons of Larry Alcala and Pol Medina. Even the very people in Dasmariñas, Cavite have been depicted in his imaginative situations. However it is mainly his father Jesus Tolentino who had a strong imprint on his art. Unlike other parents who discouraged their offspring to be artists, the elder Tolentino who was a former editorial artist in newspaper and former art professor in UST was very encouraging in following his footsteps. Seeing the elder Tolentino being creative everyday assured Kristoffer that it was alright if he took the rocky yet fulfilling road of art.

It may be the competitive nature of his college mates that the lure of annual art competitions became another drive for his to excel in his craft: “Para sakin lahat ng art competitions iba-iba. May tema man o wala, gusto ko salihan para magamit ang iba- ibang estilo ng paglikha ng isang obra. Pero kung papipiliin, gusto ko magkamit ng isang award sa ibang bansa gamit ang estilo kong ito. Filipino-tradition inspired ito para maipagmalaki sa buong mundo ang style  na nagmula sa ibang bansa pero ni-render gamit ang estilo ng isang Filipino.”

Buhay Dagat, 2012 (Acrylic on Canvas, 3ft x 4 ft)
 

This epiphany is more evident in works such as in Buhay Dagat. With a unique perspective, his cartoons come alive in full color. It is almost cinematic. Having developed this somewhat surreal yet comical genre, Kristoffer offers a composition that is his own. Shown here is an emphatic blue wave while the sea of characters that features the comings and goings of a life by the shore. “He is heir to the young Larry Alcala,” as one art writer crowned him. Here is hoping Kristoffer will continue to elevate the art of illustration as initiated by the late great cartoonist.

Kristoffer is firm in his belief of the power of education and value formation of a cartoon to what we conservatively associate it with. He defends it further: “Dapat may attachment yung gawa sa mga viewers upang magkaroon ng halaga. Higit sa lahat makapukaw di lang ang emosyon kundi ng atensyon ng bawat isa. Maging isang inspirasyon sa mga makakita nito.  Kaya kadalasan sa mga ginagawa ko puno ng buhay at masaya. Natutuwa akong ngumingiti mga taong nakakaita nito.”  

Robot 3, 2103 (Acrylic on Canvas, 2 ft x 2 ft)



Part of his ongoing series of these highly-mechanical gadgets is Robot 3. In this Robot series he points out we have become numb in chasing life’s senseless things that we do (or ought not to) become distracted or are in ourselves our distractions to the supposed more mundane focus of our daily lives. This somewhat disturbing message mixed with Kristoffer’s depth of color and shafts of light are hallmarks of his own visual style.

For me an interesting artwork should involve a well-thought concept with finely-executed craftsmanship that takes time to marvel at. The more hard work one pours on it, the easier one reads his image/s. Looking at Kristoffer’s works, one becomes unmindful such that every time one views/re-views his paintings one gets as many interpretations yet. His images capture the many hopeful frames in our minds, either for our country or simply for one’s distinct pleasure. There are no untoward or ill-perceived perspectives for Kristoffer. His pictures come in stress-free as he defines them with positive Filipino values now slowly fading into oblivion, as fast as one clicks to be instantly online.

In an art scene where there has been a deluge of personal angst and emo-driven wall-bound expressions abound, Kristoffer’s art is as social as hanging out at the nearest sari-sari store or corner barber shop. It is as Asian as throngs of masses are just part of the bigger tableau. They are his family, friends, neighbors and faceless Filipinos he sees everyday in the streets, in the 6 o’clock news or in his fertile imagination. His genre is not a reaction to another art movement but a very scientific and learned way to come up on his own. 

Sometimes the best way to look at life is not in one big chunk but in small bites. In slices, savoring that feeling or thought, without being nostalgic or forceful. Kristoffer chronicles the times, not in the grand scheme but in mere moments past. A blotted reminder of who were are and what we are capable of.

1 comment:

Andrea Becker said...

I have a canvas painting from. Jesusstolentino. Manilla, phiippines. 1974. One mans face...three positions...any idea?