Arts & Culture

Self-Taught Artist Mark Valenzuela Integrates Painting, Drawings, and Ceramics in a Single Work

He considers each piece an installation.
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It was a physical move that instigated Mark Valenzuela’s interest in art. After leaving Pagadian for Dumaguete to attend Siliman University, he became engulfed in painting, drawing, and terracotta works. Despite the lack of a formal art education, the self-taught artist immersed himself in learning, prompting him to pursue a career in the field. He launched his first solo show in Manila in 2007.

“I have always conceived and presented my work as installations,” he says. Valenzuela is known for multi-layered pieces that spark interaction and connection, always forming a broader narrative. His pieces are just as significant as the space that envelops them. “Over the past few years, I have worked increasingly to integrate painting, drawing and ceramics. These three core elements come together so that a single work can be viewed both singularly and as an installation at the same time.”

Context remains an important influence in Valenzuela’s art. Living between Australia and the Philippines has allowed him to work with myriad materials—from commercial stoneware and porcelain clays from the southern hemisphere to terracotta from Dumaguete, and the shift between two different cultures has informed the concepts he works with as well. “I am constantly comparing and questioning both of the spaces I inhabit. Living between two countries prompts me to investigate my own perceptions. Distance can bring clarity, but my own views are certainly influenced by displacement and nostalgia as well,” he explains. Ideology, identity and history—all these play a significant part in shaping his installations.

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A recipient of CCP’s Thirteen Artists Award, Valenzuela notes that having his work recognized across the globe helps open his eyes to perceptions and interpretations of different audiences. His most recent exhibition, “Violently,” at Artinformal, consisted of two large installations of ceramic sculptures and drawings, concrete, butcher’s hooks, and terracotta shards.

“It focused on themes of fanaticism and machismo—there’s a long-held preoccupation with conflict and resistance that’s at the core of my art practice,” he says. “While the subject matter is fairly serious, there is also a certain amount of humor in the work. It’s playful, vindictive, and a way of engaging in free, critical dialogue.”

Mark Valenzuela is one of the featured artists at Art Fair Philippines, which runs until February 19 at The Link in Makati.

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