Arts & Culture

Three Esteemed Artists, One Giant Painting on the Philippines' History and Future

Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, and Mark Justianiani's collaboration is one of the most compelling pieces you'll see at Art Fair Philippines.
Comments

“Confused and confusing,” is how Lean Alejandro described the period after the 1986 EDSA Revolution, “where everything is falling apart, and everything is touch and go.” On September 19, 1987, the charismatic and influential student leader and activist was murdered at the age of 27.

In a chaotic period characterized by coup attempts and street protests, a generation of Filipinos came of age and attempted to find their place in a time where nothing was certain.

It was Alejandro’s death that prompted a similar awakening in Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, and Mark Justiniani—today, three of contemporary Philippine art's premier names but in 1987, just young artists getting their start.


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
From left: Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, and Mark Justiniani


The three met each other as members of ABAY—Artista ng Bayan, a group of young artists who used their talents collectively—in murals, interactions, collaborations—to call attention to the time’s important issues. They joined the group separately but found each other there. “Kay Lean, dun ko naisip sumali, dun ko naisip ma-involve,” Justiniani says.

Nung nasa art school kami, ang thinking lang namin ay very Western-oriented and yung iniisip lang namin was about art,” Borlongan says. “Individually, nagkaroon ng questions… Gusto mo hanapin yung art with a social purpose. Saan ba pwede gamitin yung art maliban sa gallery system?”

And through the years, they’ve remained close collaborators—as they’ve grown individually, they’ve also grown together and in the same direction.

“It’s not easy to reach a level where you can actually work together,” Garibay says. “Hindi madali sa artists yun eh, especially painters, it’s a very individual process.” But in almost three decades of collaboration, they have found a groove that’s allowed them to push each other to their respective limits and create important, lasting work.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

“It’s like a jazz band,” Borlongan says. “In terms of form and content, whatever ideas maisip nilang dalawa, walang masyadong handicap. Immediately, dahil nga dun sa technical capacity—pen and ink, watercolor, oil—mabilis nag-mamaterialize yung form. Siyempre 'pag nakasama mo rin sila, you also get inspired. Gusto mo rin labas yung galing mo kasi maiiwanan ka.”

In the same way that Alejandro’s death roused three young artists to go beyond themselves and start creating work that spoke of bigger things, the three men—older, wiser, and in their current status as three of the most respected artists of their generation—are once again coming together to make art that speaks of our national condition. This time, they’re one of Art Fair Philippines 2017’s special exhibitions, as part of CANVAS Gallery.


ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
A collaboration between Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, and Mark Justiniani


When you visit The Link for the annual Art Fair Philippines, expect a large-scale painting on canvas, about seven feet by 27 feet on the theme of our nation’s journey. “Where are we headed? Where are we going as people?” Justiniani asks.

“After 30 years, iniisip mo, bakit parang napaka-cyclical ng patterns?” Garibay says. “You have a new leader, you have high expectations, it doesn’t work—and then someone comes and there’s always an issue that would destabilize the administration... And then there’s another round of expectations—paulit-ulit. In other words, do you commit yourself again to the same process? Is it asking for a different response?”

“Part of our efforts, at this point, is a realization that art is more permanent than contemporary political issues,” Garibay says. “It may be reflective of contemporary situations but it’s going to go beyond that time.”

Comments
About The Author
Raymond Ang
View Other Articles From Raymond Ang
Comments
Latest Stories
 
Share
There are ghosts in MiraNila, but not the sort that cause nightmares.
 
Share
The stylish, lightweight look is ready to fend off spring showers.
 
Share
From step counters to triathlon companions, these are the ones that will make you a smartwatch owner.
 
Share
The surge in Chinese property buyers has led to higher price tags and rental rates all over the region.
 
Share
The Duchess has worn the black headpiece on at least seven occasions.
 
Share
Because the best libations have just a hint of mint.
 
Share
Today, babaylans are past reminders of how Filipinos regarded women in high esteem, long before colonizers came ashore.
 
Share
The luxury watchmaker leads the list of the 100 most reputable companies in 2019.
 
Share
Meet the New New Money, the God, the East Rich, and more.
 
Share
The first bracelet was a custom piece for the Duchess of Windsor, but now you can get one of your own for a cool $1.2 million.
Load More Articles
CONNECT WITH US