Lives and Works: Manila
Alfredo Esquillo (b. 1972, Philippines) paints tableaux of Philippine social life, attempting to uncover the almost surreal ironies of a culture convulsing with myriad contradictions. The artist’s emergence on the Philippine contemporary art scene is noted for the artist’s credible competence in illustration and the retooling talent in figuration. Esquillo’s painting style captures quite cogently the hybrid cultures of the Philippines today.
With Esquillo’s growing interest in cultural paradoxes, he begins to redefine the technology of photographic effect as well as the idiom of painting itself. As religious icons mingle with media contraptions, his art recognizes the appeal of both in the cultural tastes of Filipinos. The density and luster of the artist’s palette, however, belie the illusionary nature of the gifts that media and religion bear.
Esquillo Jr. majored in painting at University of Santo Thomas. Since then painting has remained the mainstay of his practice, even being incorporated into his more recent works that could best be described as assemblages or installations. In those recent works the artist has imagined the journey of the Filipino nation, from serial colonization and exploitation to a more hopeful future. His works examine individual, social, historical and communal identities, reimagining familiar representations to question how these viewpoints are constructed.
The artist conjures likeness as a vehicle of passage, a process therefore of both an intimation of something still to come and of an imitation in which the self embodies
a condition. This styling of the self lends well to the performance of subjectivity, one that plays out as a material of history being staged again so that the self could act in and on its flux. It is a colonial history that is evoked by the jeep, brought to the Philippines as military hardware during the United States’ imperialist excursion in the Pacific in the first half of the twentieth century. In the course of time, it would be transformed
by the local culture into the jeepney, which to this day persists as the country’s highly decorated popular transport, an index of postcolonial survival in dense cities and remote islands.
Complementing this suite of works is the collaboration of Esquillo and Anthony Victoria, formally established as “Eski + Victoria.” Victoria, a long-time friend of Esquillo, is known for his highly-graphic forays in metal, creating the image by way of chemical etching. With Esquillo’s symbolic figuration and Victoria’s durable medium, they fashion a collection of mutable portraits in that, while the works hold outlines of figures, they also reflect back the image of the viewer as actual mirrors bordered with ornate frames.
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