Arts & Culture

This Filipino Artist Uses Office Supplies to Depict Biblical Stories in His Art

Ian Fabro's works are on display at the exhibition space of the University of the Philippines’ Jorge Vargas Museum.
IMAGE JOJO MAMANGUN
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If we go by John Milton, it took all of Satan’s cunning—and a band of equally nefarious cohorts—to orchestrate man’s fall from Eden. Artist Ian Fabro, on the other hand, needed only pen, paper, and a heavy-duty staple gun to impart his own Paradise Lost chronicles.

The resulting pieces, however, are every bit as layered, textured, and complex as Milton’s 350-year-old verses.


Artist Ian Fabro’s large-scale artworks (as yet untitled), are composed of an intricate layering of drawings, pins, and staplewire.

Fabro, 23, takes over the third floor exhibition space of the University of the Philippines’ Jorge Vargas Museum for a one-man show that opens this month. His last exhibit, “Hurt Anatomies,” landed him on the shortlist of the 2016 Ateneo Art Awards. The artist continues to use his drawings as the primary device to convey his visual narratives. That he piles his obsessive ballpoint scribbles one on top of the other, about a hundred of them in one work, and sets them in place by using staple wire and dressmaker pins, gives his work their singularity.

“When I was still in school, I would already play around with my drawings,” recounts Fabro, who studied Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, in Filipino. “I wanted to experiment with collages, so I would tear them up. And then I wanted to find a way to put them together. I discovered that by using my stapler, I gave them a quality that I was looking for: it was as if I had surgically stitched them back together and had given them scars. Like Frankenstein.”



His enthrallment for Milton’s masterpiece stems from a continued fascination with Catholic imagery. “I started out mining religious symbols as a form of rebellion, ayaw ko talaga sila. But lately, I have started to appreciate what a vast source of poetic forms they hold. They have now become my visual language.”

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This suite of works takes off from the illustrations of Gustave Doré, the engravings of William Blake, and Le Genie du Mal (The Genius of Evil), the haunting Romantic sculpture of Lucifer by the Belgian artist Guillaume Geefs. It is Fabro’s frenetic wielding of his staple gun, however, that makes the wall-bound pieces compelling, marking them as uniquely his.


Staple wire pressed closely together or webbed en masse form patterns that give heft and tactility to Fabro’s surfaces. In one work, they seem to radiate upward as the Morningstar that gives off light. In another, tight, neat rows of stainless steel staples arranged in a chevron design call up detail from the armor of St. Michael. Twisting coils of copper staples evoke the serpent that lured Adam and Eve to their doom. Two panels completely blanketed in the steel braces recall infernal doors that open the floodgates of evil.

The works are dark and somber; they are as ponderous as to be expected from any study of Milton’s text. In Paradise Lost, the fallen angels created Pandemonium. Ian Fabro, however, ruminates on their fate and seems in heavenly bliss. September 2 to 23, Roxas Avenue, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 928.1927; [email protected] com; vargasmuseum.upd.edu.ph.

This story was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Town&Country.

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