Arts & Culture

This Art Fair Philippines Artist Tackles the Death Penalty Debate With a Surreal Installation

Jose Tence Ruiz was also a featured artist in the 2015 Venice Biennale.
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Art was never too far away for Jose Tence Ruiz—he prefers to be called Bogie. As a restless preschooler, he was exposed to books on Caravaggio thanks to his step-grandfather, Arturo G. Rosenburg, a Filipino literary anthologist. The art, he said, kept him quiet. Having a book dealer for a grandfather worked in the artist’s favor—his exposure to everything from book cover art to illustrations to children’s books was far beyond a typical child’s.


Another early teacher was his paternal uncle, Virgilio “Pandy” Aviado. Only 12 years Bogie’s senior, Pandy’s own career in art helped open Bogie’s eyes to the art world. “I attended my first opening at 10 years old. It was his first one-man show at LUZ gallery, then along EDSA.” His uncle was a scholar who had been to Europe in the '60s, and during family reunions, Bogie would steal into Pandy’s studio and witness art creation firsthand.

Bogie took this appreciation for art and ran with it through a plethora of influential teachers that took him from childhood to his 20s. Aca Versoza, Brenda Fajardo, Ben Hur Villanueva, Araceli Dans, Conrado Estrada, Rod Dula, Pat Cordero, and Onofre Pagsanghan are just a few of the figures that helped him cultivate this passion for art. “I realized at 16 that this was what I wanted to live my life by,” he shares. Immersed in the arts even with the friendships he kept with fellow figures Ike Red, Angie Palanca, Sonny Veneracion, and Joey Ayala, he moved on to be greatly influenced by social realism through the Kaisahan men.

“Art was always about the meaningful interpretation and dramatization of both the history and the everyday,” he says. His dive into social realism allowed him to seek artistic effort that would ultimately uplift all humans, not just a handful of elite figureheads. The democratization of work took him to explore political cartoons. “It was a steady income, albeit filled with daily pressure. But it was a way for me to reach out to people,” he adds. Editorial work allowed him to defy the common belief that art was not lucrative—it was a way for him to work on parallel pursuits. In turn, the work allowed him to develop discipline and systematic creativity.

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The Langue Lounge by Jose Tence Ruiz

Bogie’s most inspired piece to date is 2015’s Shoal, a metal and velvet conflagration resembling a ship, which was part of the Venice Biennale. His jeepney series, the Kariton Kathedrals, the Kotillions, the Bunjeefixions, etc. were also a significant part of his expansive portfolio. “My Door to Door piece (1995) is also a favorite, but when asked, I always revert to the idea that my favorite artwork is the one I have yet to complete.”

“It’s hard for me to separate my work, considering my practice has me considering 10 ideas all at the same time,” says the artist. “I have volumes of notebooks with at least 35 pieces still waiting to be started. Time is always the most difficult material to procure,” he adds.

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