The Sacred And Profane for Peewee Roldan

This October and November, Norberto “Peewee” Roldan brings his works to KL and Singapore, to the spaces of TAKSU in

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Peewee's smaller-sized assemblages, "Sacred Devotions 7 and 8"

both cities.   Six weeks ago, the weekend before Typhoon Ondoy forever changed our definition of calamity, Peewee mounted a preview for both these shows at MO’s Space.  The preview only ran for five days, and I had the good fortune to catch it.

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"We Have Nothing That Is Ours Except Time and Memory 2" Collected brass purses and plastic compacts interspersed with vintage photos

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These days, we recognize Peewee as the soul behind Green Papaya Art Projects,  the bastion of cutting-edge, experimental art in Manila.  It takes these shows in Taksu to remind us that Peewee is himself a practicing contemporary artist. I first saw one of Peewee’s assemblages at the Ayala Museum in 2005 when it featured Filipino art from the permanent collection of the Singapore Art Museum.  I had the chance to see the same pieces on exhibit at the museum itself.  How lucky for art collectors in Malaysia and Singapore to have this opportunity to see his new pieces.

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Antique brass compacts

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Stampitas and medallions

A former seminarian, Peewee channels his fascination with Christian, animist, and pagan practices into his art pieces.  He integrates abubots he has collected for years with curios he finds during forays into places such as Quiapo.  He installs his baubles in small compartments, like shallow pigeonholes on a pharmacy shelf.  His bigger works have metal and brass purses and cigarette cases or plastic compacts interspersed with old sepia photos framed in wood.  He has a collection of religious stampita combined with small medallions,   plastic rosaries with amulets from Siquijor inside glass bottles,  or black and white wax effigies the size of one’s hand.  He lines his frames with vintage wallpaper, old publications, or fabric to add another layer of texture and detail to his work.

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Stampitas, rosaries, medallions, and amulets inside glass bottles

For his smaller assemblages, he combines his toy collection, robots and action figures, with religious icons and memorabilia.  In his biggest piece, he even cut up a family heirloom, priestly vestments he had inherited from an uncle.



An interesting series has him using cigar boxes to house more of his miscellany.  Another brings back work originally done for a 2003 show in Australia, Pleasure and Pain. For this, he displays trinkets that give pleasure or induce pain in boxes with glass lids that we see in emergency exits for first aid kits.

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Assemblage from a family heirloom

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Using vintage cigar boxes to house his curios

I enjoyed seeing a body of Peewee’s works hanging together.  You get a better sense of what he is about, this immersion in folk religious beliefs.  I see so many pieces nowadays that I can’t help the ennui that occasionally sets in.  But when I get that feeling of wonder and amazement, like how I felt after catching this preview, then I know why I snatch time off in the middle of a working day to view art.


From his "Pleasure And Pain" series

Everything Is Sacred runs from 22 October to 21 November at Taksu Kuala Lumpur.  Profane Is The New Sacred runs from 26 November to 20 December at Taksu Singapore.  For more information, visit




An assemblage with Peewee's toy collection


Making use of black and white wax effigies


5 Responses to The Sacred And Profane for Peewee Roldan

  1. Donna Miranda says:

    “A former seminarian, Peewee channels his fascination with Christian, animist, and pagan practices into his art pieces.”

    – Nakakahinayang kung minsan isipin na kailangan patuloy pa ring gamitin na take-off point yung pagiging former seminarian ng isang artist na katulad ni Norberto “Peewee Roldan” para basahin ang trabaho niya. Are artists’ works always perceived within the limiting frames of their personal history.

    • manilaartblogger says:

      Thank you for your comments. Actually, I put it in as a bit of trivia because it was news to me. It came up in my conversation with Peewee as I chatted with him on the phone about this show. I thought it would be interesting to others like me who may want to know more about him. As I wrote in this post, I had been fascinated with Peewee’s pieces since I first saw them a few years ago (both in Singapore and Manila), when I knew nothing about his personal background. Definitely, his personal history should be incidental, and should not add to, detract from, or as you say, limit, how we view his incredible pieces. Or any artist for that matter.

  2. Donna Miranda says:

    I think eight years in the seminary is not at all trivial. The point is that when writing about art, we are inevitably mediating the way people read the work and the artist’s practice. No doubt that the people will find this interesting piece of information, what with our fascination for the intricate lives and disclosures of celebrities, as proven by the high TV ratings everytime Kris Aquino shares another tragic snippet of her life. Should we be comfortable then that people simply make this connection or rather facilitate a deeper reading into the work, into the form of the work and not it’s narrative and historical baggage. I would to think that in fact Roldan’s work repositions this ‘fascination’ over religious objects by putting them together this way, in an almost predictable (to a point of boring) rhythm, in effect stripping these objects/artifacts/abubots/ethnographic objects of their very associations, and meaning to become merely decorative. In effect transgressing painting itself by disguising his work as painting.

  3. esmeralda frakenbush says:

    what’s wrong with reading the art based on one’s personal history? I think it’s what makes the art more interesting than abstracting the objects to merely ornamental. Trangression is boring. Pseudo art is disposable.

    • Donna Miranda says:

      what makes art truly subversive is that it is disposable. that reminds us that it is unnecessary and exists in its own, stripped off of any context but itself. art that serves some external purposes is no different from propaganda

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