Alfredo Esquillo: Passion/Play


For the uninitiated Alfredo Esquillo Jr. prefers to be in the peripheries as he favors the folk religious, the pre-colonial indigenous and fresh visual language of the young. Unlike other artists that concern themselves with the personal stuff and the plurality of found objects in CautionaryTales he readily inquires current issues and political events. Before he painterly essays his paintings, this time he abstractly warns his viewers, as he hopes they get his message.
Spending Time on a Chair
Usually after a long respite, it is exacting for Esquillo to venture a big leap in visual style. His impulse is to his impending themes and how aesthetically he could combine imagery—how will it morph—decorate his canvas without being too illustrative and to create new potential meanings. In experimenting with Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) he rediscovers flatness as a spatial option. Though there are no portraitures in these seven paintings, he graphically exhausts us with anatomy connoting each body part with representations. What is recurring in every Esquillo piece are his staple symbols like megaphones with wings as messenger angels, his prophetic scrolls, and wave-like flames representing eminent danger ever present in our own mortality. Another penchant now is his composition done in earth pastel colors and curvillinear lines in existence.

Eve and Apples

Eve and Apples continues from where an earlier piece entitled Fall of Kolokoy has left off. Esquillo depicts the beauty of women as prey to their own trap leading to their eventual downfall. An inverted Eve is pierced while being suffocated by an overbearing of apples. The scroll which Esquillo uses for his pronouncements is not labeled as it tangles further the woman in question. She is even about to be in a deeper black void of uncertainty. Notice how a more playful Esquillo in transition uses flat frames or framing devices unlike before he would frame his subjects with depth resulting in 3-D perspectives.

A dormant reaction to one’s frustration is Pandora as Esquillo cleverly uses pulleys and gadgets as a creative tactic of expressing blind resignation to the political quagmire we are all into. Covering the subject over his face it is the mechanical interlude that excites the viewer, waiting the next moment to happen. We are all in this submissive stance.  

Camouflage is another retort pertaining to the violent Marawi siege in Mindanao. Two limbs representing survival soldier’s instincts humbly occupying the land while they firmly stand in denouncing atrocity. The megaphone with wings is Esquillo’s symbol of homeward angels with trumpets alluding that the Apocalypse is happening already. As it is present in war, instead of music it will be a noise of sermon brought about by hatred and deceit that will be heard.

Esquillo’s process does not use a sketch rather it is mostly titles in mind that dictates his imagery. Before setting everything up on canvas he already knows who and what the main figure is. He then compliments it with minor characters for him to explore further.

Another influence for Esquillo are rubber cut Japanese woodcut prints or ukiyo-e which  traditionally plays on flatness as foreground background using figuration lines. He translates them into his own version by using the EVA which is more adept to the indigenous materiality to his images highlighting linear lines and decorative features of his paintings.

Allegorically commenting recent moves to revise our constitution thus affecting our history, it was only the head and the clasping claws of the monster that was definite for Esquillo in Memory Eating Eagle. Attempting to oversize it bigger-than-life Esquillo drew up a big brain as it sucks up his victim’s consciousness only to be surprised that the monster’s eyes resemble a trigger of a gun. Accidental parallel occurrences like this pleases Esquillo no end.     

More than graphic device, biblical verses as texts concern Esquillo. In Babtism, controversial for him was when Jesus was babtized the Holy Spirit dawn on Him with a translated message as Di Kapayapaan, Kundi Tabak (He came not for Peace but for the Sword). For Esquillo there are many interpretations of truth and the word of God is open to various definitions. One will never be calm unless one understands their application to our lives.

The physical depiction of the man’s ribs reveals that God as an idea became man in the flesh. On the other hand, religion which is man’s concept was given a structure, thus, the simplest truths remain to be the most abstract of revelations. Notice how the prevalent maroon backdrop evidences of Esquillo’s Nazareno devotion. 

How Esquillo imbibed his father’s talent in deciphering texts from the Bible connoting varied meanings is evident. It is Esquillo’s brilliance how he then applies it with paints. Every combination of words used is complimented with implied goodness, value, and remembrances of his spiritual father.  

Interesting how appropriation and free association is reflected in 300 Year-Old Slave. A man is burdened with colonial pillars and through time our weary bodies sag. Emancipation in the form of an erupting volcano parallels as the soil erupts an impending revolution to unravel.  

300 Year-Old Slave
Dysfunctional morphing is at its prowess in Spending Time on a Chair. By his lonesome, a man whiles away his time unmindful of ethereal happenings around him. In an almost abstract rendering all Esquillo’s favored elements abound—clouds, flames, potencias,wings, thunders, monster’s ears--while the unwritten scroll wraps around him. A cup slips due to his absence while a cord is unplugged eschewing detachment from reality.

The man’s consciousness floats as he struggles in his spiritual condition between good and evil. As tension in his head overpowers him he is situated in a chair could it be he is deteriorating to oblivion or just apathetic in his confusion?

Esquillo continues to experiment through Cautionary Tales and is consistent to have no definite style, transferring from one period to another yet he goes back to a loop of regulars that binds together all these tendencies. He remains more natural in combining potential imagery, the more freedom to engage the further meanings are suggested. The deeper the political and social underpinnings, the more enamored his design sense becomes and the greater challenge is to simplify its overall aesthetic quality.

When Esquillo was younger he viewed his works to be too old for his age. Now that he is older he continues to aspire that they look younger and more relevant. As he celebrates 25 years as a visual artist this puts the nationalist in Esquillo in a brighter light of significance.

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