Rodel Tapaya’s Florid Tales at the Vargas Museum

Rodel Tapaya, "Baston ni Kabuyan Bilang pero hindi Mabilang", acrylic on canvas, 10ft x 20 ft

The Jorge B. Vargas Museum in the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus ends the year (and begins the next) by playing host to an exhibit by contemporary artists Rodel Tapaya.  Once again, the

Bulaklak ng Dila exhibit installation view

museum provides art lovers and, more importantly, university students,  with the opportunity to partake of current work by a key artist practicing in today’s cultural landscape.

Rodel Tapaya, "Alamat ng Bayabas", acrylic on canvas, 10ftx8ft

In Bulaklak ng Dila, Rodel continues his visual narratives based on long-forgotten Philippine folk tales.  His work has always championed the re-telling of these stories via his paintings and dioramas, in part to keep oral traditions alive in other forms.  Rodel has put together a major show:  from the size of his pieces (he brings out three murals that stand from six feet to ten feet high, the largest at 20 feet long) to the range of media he has utilized.   He has also completed drawings and paintings on wood, as well as his first forays into sculpture.

Detail, "Isang Kahig, Isang Tuka"

Isang Kahig, Isang Tuka is an installation of foot-high half human-half chicken figures.  Based on a legend that recounts the origin of birds, Rodel fabricated this 60-strong chicken army from resin and wood.  He collaborated with Pampangueño carvers,

Rodel Tapaya, "Isang Kahig, Isang Tuka"

appropriating torsos they would normally use for Santo Niño statues, pairing each of them with a chicken headdress that mimics the construction of a Moriones mask. He debuts his sculptural skills via fiberglass busts of three gods from Philippine mythology, Manama, Gugurang, and Maguayen.   One detects the influence of Roberto Feleo, given the subject matter.  But the rendition is distinctly Rodel’s.

Rodel Tapaya, "Manama", fiberglass

The three aforementioned murals on canvas carry on with a style that Rodel has adopted as a visual signature.  His grotesque, yet comical, humans and disproportionate creatures exist in landscapes of bright, joyful colors that bring to mind Mexican

Rodel Tapaya, "Gugurang", fiberglass

art and crafts.  Baston ni Kabuyan Bilang pero hindi Mabilang, a 10 ft x 20 ft painting on a single canvas, will surely count as one of his more important works.  I personally liked Nang wala pang ginto doon nagpalalo, nang magka-ginto ay doon na nga sumuko?, more modest but still impressive at 6 ft x 10 ft.  The response to the riddle that serves as the painting’s title is palay–rice.  In this piece, Rodel narrates the origin of rice, while injecting his own commentary.  Residing as he does in Bulacan, he has witnessed firsthand how urban development has swallowed up rice fields.  Look closely at the bottom right and see the bags of rice that seem to fly, Rodel’s take on our country’s dependence on rice imports.

Rodel Tapaya, "Maguayen", fiberglass

Rodel has filled the exhibit area with smaller paintings ( 4ft x 5 ft and 2.5ft x 3.5 ft), landscapes  that showcase his current technique of looser strokes applied on dark underpaint.  We see this in his additional pieces on canvas, two paintings on plexiglass, and several portraits on wood.  He frames his wooden portraits with highly-embellished tin sheets, the sort used to decorate carrozas and altarpieces.  He also shows drawings in ballpoint ink, and one diorama, Alamat ni Lumawig.

Rodel began 2010 as part of the Singapore Art Museum’s special exhibit on Philippine art.  A few months later, he had a solo show, Memory Landscapes, at The Drawing Room and a joint exhibit with his wife, Marina Cruz, in Jakarta.  We hear of his presence in international art fairs and regional auctions.  He also made it into the Shortlist of the 2010 Ateneo Art Awards.  It seems only fitting that he wraps up a busy year with a show of this magnitude.

Rodel Tapaya, "Nang wala pang ginto ay doon nagpalalo, nang magka-ginto ay doon na nga sumuko?", acrylic on canvas, 6ftx10ft

Bulaklak ng Dila runs from 10 December 2010 to 5 March 2011 at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center, Roxas Ave., UP Diliman, Quezon City.  Phone (632)928-1927 or visit

Detail, "Nang Wala Pang Ginto..."

Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz stand beside "Baston ni Kabuyan..."

Detail, "Baston ni Kabuyan Bilang..."

Rodel Tapaya, "Balat Kalabaw", oil on wood, framed in silver-coated tin sheet

Rodel Tapaya, "Luha ng Buwaya", oil on wood, framed with silver-coated tin sheet

Rodel Tapaya, detail of diorama, "Alamat ni Lumawig"

Rodel Tapaya, "Diwata", acrylic on canvas, 5ftx4ft

Rodel Tapaya, "Folk Narratives Drawing Series", ballpoint ink on paper

Rodel Tapaya, "Tabi-tabi Po", acrylic on canvas, 5ftx4ft

Rodel Tapaya, "Tulak ng Bibig", oil on wood, framed with silver-coated tin sheet

Rodel Tapaya, "Tikbalang", acrylic on canvas, 5ftx4ft


3 Responses to Rodel Tapaya’s Florid Tales at the Vargas Museum

  1. Mhel Legaspi says:

    Good day. I’d like to ask for your permission to use the images in this blog for my school report. I assure you that these images will be used solely for the report. Thank you.

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