Altarpieces at Artesan

January 26, 2011

Ronald Ventura's assemblage

While the parallel events around Art Stage Singapore marked the first time that Philippine art made such a collective impact on the Southeast Asian art scene, one gallery in Singapore has been working for years to introduce Pinoy artists to this market.  In a converted shophouse at a leafy residential enclave half an hour from busy Orchard Road, Artesan Galelry + Studio not only hosts exhibits of Filipino art.  They have also collaborated with the National University of Singapore to bring artists such as Ronald Ventura (2008) and Antipas Delotavo (2009) into the university’s museum.   

By Ruel Caasi

Artesan’s packed program includes the awarding of artist residencies.  Every year, one of the three winners of the Ateneo Art Awards gets a chance at this grant, and consequently, exhibit in Artesan.  Leeroy New, the 2009 winner, had just completed his, and his work makes up part of the exhibit currently on view at the gallery.

Ronald Ventura curated Alter Peace and Formation, a group show that includes works from Ruel Caasi, EJ Cabangon, Igan D’Bayan, Manok Ventura, along with his own and Leeroy’s.  Alter Peace plays on the word altarpiece, and each artist takes a section of the gallery to reveal his version.  Alter Peace also denotes the opposite of peace, and thus, quite obviously, they mean for their altarpieces to disturb and question.

By Manok Ventura

A group show of such disparate styles cannot completely gel, and unsurprisingly, the works feel a bit awkward all together.  I thought Ronald’s and Leeroy’s pieces stood out for their combination of the high tech, pop, and street art with Catholic imagery.  Ronald’s assemblage of small paintings, graffiti, and sculpture come together as a robot with the Sacred Heart.  Leeroy takes his resin figures of saints as aliens into the belly of an extra-terrestrial cloud.

By Igan D'bayan

To end, I quote from the exhibit’s catalogue:

“Alter Peace and Formation exemplifies Artesan’s advocacy to promote young, talented artists from the Philippines and across the region.  Gallery owner Roberta Dans adds, ‘The aim of this show is to present these artists in their true context—a dialogue of ideas, where their shared concepts and outlook converge, integrate and evolve, yet remaining separate and true to their individual identities.’”

By Leeroy New

Alter Peace & Formation runs from 11 to 29 January 2011 at Artesan Gallery + Studio, 793 Bukit Timah Road, #02-01 Singapore 269765.  Phone (65) 6469-7818 or visit

Detail, Leeroy New

By EJ Cabangon

Detail, Ronald Ventura

Detail, Ronald Ventura

Detail, Ronald Ventura


The Maestro and the Master: Roberto Chabet and Bencab in Singapore

January 22, 2011

Roberto Chabet, "Psychopathology of Everyday Life 2.1", "Piero", and "Cargo and Decoy"

Pinoy art lovers couldn’t but strut on the streets of Singapore —after they stopped to catch their breath from all that scurrying from one affair to the next.  Almost all the fringe events organized around Art Stage Singapore last week involved Filipino visual artists. “That says a lot”, art writer Gina Fairley remarked as we discussed the very palpable Philippine presence in an important week for Southeast Asian art.  Mok Kim Chuan, Head of Southeast Asian Paintings at Sotheby’s observed, “For the first time, Filipinos, not the Indonesians, got all the attention.”

Roberta Dans, Annie Sarthou, Isa Lorenzo, and Bencab at STPI

While two days didn’t give me enough time for everything (I completely missed Manuel Ocampo at vwfa), I’d like to think that I caught the two most important exhibit openings of the week:  To be continuedRoberto Chabet at ICAS La Salle, and Bencab’s Glimpses at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

To Be Continued:  Roberto Chabet

Roberto Chabet, "Observatory"

The year 2011 promises to belong to Roberto Chabet.  He marks half a century since his first solo exhibit in 1961, fifty years of practicing art.  Although “practicing” seems such an inadequate word for the influence he has wielded on the contemporary art landscape.  This exhibit launches Roberto Chabet:  50 Years, a yearlong project that will span 15 exhibits across various museums and galleries in Manila, Singapore, and Hong Kong.  Organized by former students who revere him as a mentor, the undertaking will reexamine the works of an iconic personality, a former professor at the UP College of Fine Arts, the pioneer of Philippine conceptual art.  It will also explore his impact on a generation of visual artists, many of whom we regard as the most commercially successful in

Roberto Chabet, "Pier and Ocean"

Manila’s current art scene.

Roberto Chabet, "Dutch Painting"

To Be Continued:  Roberto Chabet has been laid out over two capacious galleries at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, inside the La Salle College of the Arts. It surveys Chabet’s installations that utilize plywood boards, usually painted or set against other objects.   To quote the exhibit notes:

“Chabet used plywood in his early kinetic sculptures in the 1970s, but it was in the Eighties

Roberto Chabet, "Psychopathology of Everyday Life 2.1" and "Psychopathology of Everyday Life 2.2"

when he adapted plywood to painting. As an architect, he had a natural affinity with this basic construction material…Plywood is matter as much as metaphor for Chabet and for the post-war generation, (it) symbolized the desire for reconstruction and a new social order.”

Robeto Chabet, "Russian Painting 1" and Untitled

The breadth of the exhibit staggers and each piece delivers quite a visual impact.  I had no inkling of the scope of Chabet’s work, to think that this exhibit only covers his installations from the 1980s.  However, I did wish for more background information on each piece.  I remember catching the recreation of Cargo and Decoy (which is also reprised here) at MO Space

Roberto Chabet, "Russian Painting 4"

sometime last year and getting so fascinated with the cargo cults of the South Pacific that inspired it.  I can just imagine how much more enriching the experience of viewing all these works would have been had I had a handle on his concepts.  Perhaps some wall text on the more groundbreaking pieces would help, even for the students who will be wandering through these galleries.

Roberto Chabet, "Two Paintings"

Unfortunately, I missed Ringo Bunoan’s talk the day after the exhibit opening.  She curated the show along with Isabel Ching and Nilo Ilarde.  I understand that a monograph of these works will complete this yearlong celebration, which will culminate in an exhibit at the Cultural Center of The Philippines, the institution where Chabet served as the first director.

"Cargo and Decoy" and the opening night crowd

Milling about "Boat"

Bencab, Untitled, cast paper pulp

Bencab, Glimpses

National Artist Benedicto Cabrera—Bencab—holds the distinction as the only artist ever invited to do a residency twice  at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI).  Glimpses presents works that

Bencab, "Monumental Figure II"

Bencab completed during the month he spent at the institute late last year.  He renders familiar themes, glimpses of indigenous tribes people and his trademark Sabel,  in etching, lithographs, and relief print on handmade paper.  The institute’s technical capabilities has allowed Bencab to return to printmaking in a major way, stretching his repertoire to include large-scale works with a new, richer palette.  The exhibit includes four sets of edition prints, 36 unique works, and 19 pulp paper paintings.

Bencab, "Dance Form III"

STPI takes its name from Kenneth Tyler, the master printer who worked with several post-war greats like Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Lichtenstein, and Stella.  In 2002, the Singapore government purchased all the original printing presses and equipment from his workshop to the tune of US$10 million.  STPI publishes and exhibits work done in its premises to elevate the art of printmaking in this part of the world.  The Singapore Art Museum also holds a substantial amount of Tyler’s work in their collection.  Now why can’t our taxes be put to such good use?

Bencab, "Glimpse of the Past/Present XXIII"

STPI's Ricky Francisco

To Be Continued:  Roberto Chabet runs from 14 January to 11 February 2011 at the ICA Galleries 1&2, La Salle College of the Arts, 1 McNally St., Singapore, Phone (65) 6496-5070.  For more information about Roberto Chabet:  50 Years, visit

Bencab Glimpses runs from 15 January to 12 February 2011 at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, 41 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238236, Phone (65)6336 3663 or visit

Bencab, "Untitled 1" and "Untitled 2"

Bencab, "Variations on Sabel 2"

Mayumi Cabrera, Bencab, Annie Sarthou, Silvana Diaz, and Rico Hizon

Bencab, Untitled

Art Stage Singapore Makes Its Debut

January 17, 2011

Ai Wei Wei, "Through"

Do art fairs take on the qualities of the cities that host them?

Art Stage Singapore opened last week at the convention center of Marina Bay Sands, the slick casino complex that has been anointed the city-state’s current “it” venue.  I looked forward with as much anticipation to my first glimpse of

Another view, Ai Wei Wei, "Through"

the monumental M-shaped edifice as I did to the art inside the fair.  Spearheaded by Lorenzo Rudolf, the former director of Art Basel, Art Stage Singapore’s advance publicity promised an event to rival the more established art fairs in the region.  As part of the VIP program, and to kick-off the fair, collectors had been invited to a preview in the afternoon, before the Vernissage, to meet art superstars Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, photographer David Lachapelle, and even our own Ronald Ventura.  Unfortunately, I took a midday flight, and did not get there in time.  So while I can confirm that Lachapelle did put in an appearance, there’s seems to be some confusion as to whether the celebrated Japanese artists did indeed make it.

Fernando Botero, "In The Countryside" and "Ballerina"

The exhibition hall’s lay out certainly impressed with its expansive booths, high walls, and wide corridors.   A glance at the exhibitors list manifested a bias towards Asian and Southeast Asian galleries.  Very few of the American and European powerhouses, Gagosian, Pace, and White Cube–who participated in ArtHK, Hong Kong’s very successful franchise–came to Singapore.  Those that did, like the Marlborough Gallery and Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, played it safe with works by Botero, Picasso, and Murakami.

Anish Kapoor, untitled, gourds

Freddie Aquilizan with one of his two pieces at the fair

This regional slant, however, meant that much more Philippine art went on view.  The Drawing Room was the only Filipino gallery who had their own space, and they carried the artists they represent:  Alfredo Aquilizan, Rodel Tapaya, Marina Cruz, Kawayan de Guia, Kiko Escora, Mark Salvatus, Riel Hilario, Lirio Salvador, and Troy Ignacio.  Troy’s oil on paper pieces immediately caught the eye of Singaporean collectors.

Alfredo Aquilizan, "Landscape Painting 2"

Geraldine Javier’s triptych, Three Dead Trees, went up alongside an equally

Rodel Tapaya, "Animal Rescue" and Marina Cruz, "When Helen Was Three"

jaw-dropping installation by Subodh Gupta and paintings by Leslie de Chavez at Korea’s Arario Gallery. Ghe’s piece, which now belongs to a collector from Indonesia, has hand-embroidered trapped birds embedded onto her paintings of biblical trees.  The gallery will ship this piece to Korea for her solo exhibit in May.  Leslie’s grisly Meat Lover’s Paradise, with its references to the Ampatuan Massacre, had already been sold when I saw it.

The Singapore-based Artesan Gallery, owned by Filipina Roberta Dans, filled their space with Ronald Ventura’s work.  His paintings and sculpture, with layers of images from pop culture finished with technical flair, just throb with

Kawayan de Guia, "Pines Theater" (1939-2002)

Admiring Lirio Salvadors guitars


One came across a different Ronald, however, at the Primo Marella Gallery of Beijing and Milan.  They brought in his pieces from the Nanjing Biennale. A photorealistic painting of a living room could have been easily mistaken as Nona Garcia’s.  It came with three reworked television sets fashioned by Ronald into dioramas that depicted scenes from local TV fare.  Again, the figures seemed uncharacteristic of Ronald.  Perhaps, as one art enthusiast put it, Ronald just wanted to show that he could do anything.  He certainly can.

At The Drawing Room booth, Kiko Escoras charcoal painting, Rodel Tapayas sculptures and Freddie Aquilizans hanging piece

Mark Salvatus, "Fashioned Weapons" and "Courtyard"

Norberto Roldan reigned over at Taksu with a solo exhibit, The beauty of history is that it does not reside in one place.  Peewee brought out a fantastic array of his assemblages put together from his collection of knick-knacks and folk religious artifacts.  I loved the piece Quleques Fleurs 2, a six feet by eight feet diptych of vintage black and white studio shots of women framed against glossy magazine images and glass perfume bottles.  For the series Fugitives From Years of Captivity, he used slats from demolished wooden houses to contain his collation of found objects.  Peewee definitely made me proud to be Pinoy.

Troy Ignacio, "Her Story"

Other Filipino artists at Art Stage:  Annie Cabigting and Liv Vinluan had paintings

Riel Hilario, "A Mother Ship Beckons" and "The Evening Puts On A Darkening Coat"

at Richard Koh Fine Art, Nona Garcia’s photo assemblages and more of Geraldine Javier’s embroidery could be found at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Nikki Luna’s wooden chest of light boxes stood inside the Primo Marella Gallery space, while a large-scale Bencab print was at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute’s booth.

At the rear of the exhibit hall, MAD or the Museum of Art and Design had a section devoted to Chinese artists.  It included an installation by the controversial Ai Wei Wei, one of my favorite artists, the creator of the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium. Through, from

Geraldine Javier, "Three Dead Trees"

2007-2008, first shown in Sydney, is an installation from Qing Dynasty  wooden temple beams and tables.  They have been deconstructed and depicted as teetering, on the verge of collapse, with the beams seeming to impale some of the tables.  Here one experienced Ai’s commentary on the constant reinventions that make up Chinese history.  Now why didn’t the organizers give this piece a more prominent spot?

I also enjoyed the offering of Collectors Contemporary from Singapore.  They had works by Banksy, Hush, and Faile, along with those of Rauschenberg and Warhol.  Even street artists succumb to the lure of the dollar.

Leslie de Chavez, "Meat Lovers Paradise"

Overall, I felt Art Stage Singapore mirrored the city itself.  It evinced a chic and cosmopolitan air, but did not quite measure up to the sophistication, edginess, and sizzle of Hong Kong’s ArtHK.  It allowed collectors to focus mainly on art from within the region, and gave a taste of big name artists via safe, already commercially viable works.

Subodh Gupta, "Nature Morte"

Ronald Ventura, "High Five 1"

An Indian artist did create a sensation in the local press with his performance at the Gallery Maskara space.  He sat naked in front of a Frida Kahlo print.  Even if this was done behind a black curtain, by the fair’s second day, the gallery had been quietly asked to stop the performance.  Yes, this was indeed Singapore.

Ronald Ventura at the Artesan space

Art Stage Singapore was at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition & Convention Center from 13 to 16 January 2011.  For more information, visit

Ronald Ventura, mouse astronaut

Ronald Ventura oil painting with sculpture

Ronald Ventura robot sculpture

Ronald Ventura tank sculpture

Another Ronald Ventura robot sculpture

Installation view of Ronald Ventura exhibit at Artesan space

At Primo Marellas space, Ronald Ventura, "Bedtime Story", diorama

Another Ronald Ventura diorama at the Primo Marella gallery

Ronald Ventura with a Wim Delvoye steel art piece

By Wim Delvoye

With Peewee Roldan at the Taksu space featuring his solo exhibit

Norberto Roldan, detail, "Quelques Fleur 2"

Norberto Roldan, "Fugitives From Year of Captivity Series"

Norberto Roldan, piece from "In Search of Lost Time" series

Norberto Roldan, "My Brother and The Order of the Knights of the Moonshadows"

Enjoying Peewee Roldan at the Taksu space

By Annie Cabigting at Richard Koh Fine Art

A Nona Garcia photo assemblage at Valentine Willie Fine Art

Geraldine Javier, "Duck In Pineapple Sauce" at Valentine Willie Fine Art

Bencab at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute

Aya Takano at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin

Wall of Aya Takano

Takashi Murakami at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin

More Murakami

Banksy, "Sale Ends Today"

Faile, "Wooden Boxes (Singapore)"

Hush, "Pistols (Little Angels)"

Robert Rauschenberg, "Borealis 1", screenprint on brass

Claudio Bravo, "Beige Y Morado"

Claudio Bravo, "Calabazas", 2008

Clive Head, "Victoria"

Entang Wiharso, "Feast Table"

Frank Auerbach, "Portrait of Julia 2"

A Subodh Gupta Tiffin piece

Installation at the Purple Roof Gallery, Shanghai

Li Chen at Asia Art Center

Nadiah Bhumadhaj, "With One Eye Open"

Yoshitomo Nara drawings

Nikki Luna, "Compartmentalized", light boxes in chest of drawers

Oswang Gwon at Arario

Oswang Gwon, detail, "Slip Slider"

More from Oswang Gwon

Indian artist Paresh Maity

Andy Warhol, "Myths 1981"

Yayoi Kusama, "Coffee Cup"

Yayoi Kusama, "Pumpkin"

Zhang Huan, "Ash Thinker"

Art Stage Singapore entrance

Kaws at the entrance

Robert Langenegger Means No Offense

January 8, 2011

Robert Langenegger, "President of Heaven", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4 in

We welcome 2011 with the crass, the crude, the inimitable Robert Langenegger.   Love him or hate him, whether his pieces make you laugh out loud or cringe in disgust, you have to admit that Robert’s work is certainly distinct.  He has claimed the cartoon-like renditions of the most coarse and vulgar–injected with a twisted sense of humor–as his very own. This purveyor of the perverse has brought his narratives to Paris, for an exhibit at Talmart Galerie in 2009, and will be headed to Austria, for a residency with the Galerie Zimmermann Krachtochwill this September.

Robert Langenegger, "Titser Kong Bumbayin", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Basiltong Taas Balikat", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4in

At Finale’s Video Room, Robert currently shows a dozen bond paper-sized light boxes.  This marks a departure from the oil on canvas paintings and installations that has marked his previous Manila exhibits.   Each of his light boxes comes in editions of three.  As his compositions hearken to posters or book covers, I wondered if these had served as his sources.  Apparently not. “Lahat galing sa utak ko!  May naiisip akong catchy phrases, tapos may dumadating na kailangan ko ma-sketch.”  I shouldn’t even have asked.  How can anybody else have come up with these images?

Robert Langenegger, "Dialysis Diaries", lightbox, 17.5x 11 3/4 in

Robert admitted that the limited spectrum of his computer dictated the bright pastel palette he used for these acetates.  I felt that the colors went very well with his sense of mischief.

As is his wont, Robert turned the show’s title into a play of words.  For those of us used to Robert’s brand of art, Know Offense gives no offense.

Robert Langenegger, "Hyena Sunset", lightbox, 17.5x 11 3/4 in.

Know Offense runs from 6 to 26 January 2010 at Finale Art File Video Room, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces (Pasong Tamo), Makati City.  Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit

Robert Langenegger, "Why We Lost In Vietnam", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Abner, Bagets Na Tinuring Na Abaka", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in.

Robert Langenegger, "Balae Kong T-Bird", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Ex Kong Egoy", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Tolits, ang batang pinaglihi sa menthol", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4 in.