Peewee Roldan and Maxine Syjuco at NOW Gallery

August 15, 2011

Noberto Roldan, "What Is The Color of Beauty? 2"

NOW OPEN!  Pasong Tamo Extension just welcomed another art space. Now Gallery, a venture of collector Patrick Reyno, opened its doors last month.  Together with Silverlens/SLab, Manila Contemporary, and DAGC (Department of Avant-Garde Clichés), it will cement the strip’s reputation as the place for exciting contemporary art.  Now (no pun intended), if they could just all coordinate their openings!

Norberto Roldan, "What Is The Color of Beauty 2", detail


When TAKSU, the Southeast Asian gallery network with branches in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Bali, submitted their application for Art Stage Singapore in late 2010, they received a surprising directive from Lorenzo Rudolf, the fair director.  For the high-profile 2011 debut of Asia’s newest art fair, Rudolf wanted the gallery to carry the works of only one artist from their roster:  that of Norberto “Peewee” Roldan’s from the Philippines.  “It was very stressful for me,” Peewee intimates.  “They told me in October, and the fair was scheduled for January!”

Norberto Roldan, "What Is the Color of Beauty 1", detail

By the fair’s opening date, however, The Beauty Of History Is That It Does Not Reside in One Place, Peewee’s one-man show, had been wonderfully installed inside the TAKSU booth.  The Singapore Art Museum promptly acquired one of the pieces on view.  Invisibilitus Est 1, an assemblage anchored on an old chasuble, now joins Faith In Sorcery, Sorcery In Faith (1+2),a Roldan piece from 1998, in the museum’s permanent collection.

Norberto Roldan, "What Is The Color Of Beauty 1", more detail

Peewee creates art primarily from putting together an assortment of objects, mostly curios that ascribe to Filipino folk Catholicism. Metal amulets, estampitas, anting-antings, and heirloom vestments are precisely arranged within specially fabricated wooden frames or panels that mimic pigeonholes.  They stand juxtaposed against a variety of bibelots—old fabric, antique photographs, kitschy religious statuettes, vintage toys, brass compacts, colored glass bottles.  Peewee initially culled these knickknacks from his own collection. When he had used up the lot for major exhibits in KL and Singapore in 2009, he turned to street vendors and second-hand shops in the vicinity of his Kamuning studio.

Norberto Roldan, Invisibilitus Est. 4"

The 58-year-old artist, who possesses degrees in Philosophy and Fine Arts, founded Green Papaya Art Projects, Manila’s foremost independent art space, in 2000.  He continues to run its programs. Until 2007, he also worked with ABS-CBN Merchandising, completing two stints as its Creative Director.  Concurrent to his day jobs, he practiced his art, a career that began with his first solo exhibit in 1987 at Hiraya Gallery.

Norberto Roldan, "Invisibilitus Sum 2"

This month, Peewee brings out more of his boxed constructions, a continuation of his April exhibit at Green Papaya.  Invisibilitus Est. 4, Invisibilitus Sum No. 1, and Invisibilitus Sum No. 2, again center on old chasubles.  Peewee confides how difficult these have been to come by lately.  He collected vintage studio shots for both What is the color of beauty? (1) and (2), the two largest pieces on view.  Both diptychs, the first pits the old photographs against clippings from current fashion magazines, composed with a gathering of clear and colored old bottles.  For the second, he has arranged more of these photos inside boxes.  Peewee has encapsulated the stories of an era within the frames inside the piece.

Norberto Roldan, "What Is The Color of Faith 3"

My favorite pieces in the show belong to the series What Is The Color Of Faith?  For the three pieces that make up this group of works, Peewee resurrected devices he has used in previous works.  Amulets, neon figurines, and bottles filled with herbs and finished with carmen-carmen (square bits of cloth pinned on garments of infants to serve as protection) form crucifixes.  Estampitas pasted on holograms create mesmerizing repetitions.

Norberto Roldan, "What Is The Color of Faith 3", detail

At the center of the gallery, a hundred used bottles of perfume inside an heirloom glass cabinet and two crystal chandeliers make up the installation Remembering My Mother’s Long Forgotten Scent.

Norberto Roldan, "What Is The Color of Faith 2"

Peewee’s pieces are social commentaries, discourses on our faith and history through collectibles.  “I consider objects as possessing anthropological values.  I cannot use an object merely on a whim… I put together old and new objects to signify the contemporary in the old,” Peewee explains his method of classifying his assemblages.  “In the end, all the objects participate in making a whole narrative…and to me that’s what makes the work art.  You’re not just telling a straight narrative but you are trying to break the narrative for people to make their own…each [person] can have their own reading of my pieces.”

Norberto Roldan, "What Is The Color of Faith 1", detail

Joaquin and Peewee Roldan with Triccie Luchangco and "What Is The Color of Faith 1"

Maxine Syjuco, "Propensity for Pain"


Quite coincidentally, the second exhibit currently running at Now has also made use of found photographs, their sepia tones complementing Peewee’s works.  Maxine Syjuco printed a collection of discovered images on canvas.  She concealed the faces in each of them, replacing visages with painted human hearts.  Wooden frames that have been carved with wings complete each piece.  “Because these people have long passed on,” Maxine explains, “I use the wings to set them free.” Could one also say that they have been transformed into angels?

Maxine Syjuco, "Sans The Seven Dwarves"

A sculpture of a small house atop an open book sits at the center of the room.  Fabricated from wood and concrete, the doors and windows of the house stand wide open, ready to welcome Maxine’s liberated souls.

"A Propensity For Pain" installation view

Maxine Syjuco, "Prayers, Poems, Promises"

Norberto Roldan:  The Beginning of History and Fatal Strategies and Maxine Syjuco:  A Propensity for Pain run together with Pow Martinez:  Nature Paintings from 12 August to 7 September 2011 at Now Gallery & Consulting, Unit M05, Mezzanine, Eco Plaza Bldg., 2305 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City.  Phone (632) 555-0683 or visit

An edited version of the write-up on Peewee’s show has been published in the August 2011 issue of Town and Country Philippines.  Visit

Norberto Roldan, "What Is The Color of Faith 2", detail

Norberto Roldan, "Remembering My Mother's Long Forgotten Scent"

Norberto Roldan, "The Beginning Of History and Fatal Strategies"

Norberto Roldan, "Something To Remember Me By"