Kristoffer Brasileño, Ilonggo artist, stages his second solo exhibition entitled “Ilonggo Republic” at the NCCA Gallery featuring 21 portraits of Ilonggos, mostly people he has interacted with during his art practice.
His artworks explore identity and celebrate the beauty of his people.
Organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the exhibition brings forth a question of what Ilonggo art is if there is one. Equal parts autobiographical and observational, the exhibition is the artist’s way of documenting his locality while celebrating its identity
“Ilonggo Republic” is an exhibition of recent works from Ilonggo artist, Kristoffer Brasileño. The paintings featured in this exhibition explore the identity and celebrate the beauty of his subjects.
Strangers, family, and friends – all lend their faces to the paintings. Ilonggo Republic is observational during the creative process when Brasileño tries to capture the essence of the subject through his own lens, painting the face with a recognizable likeness to its owner. But it turns into an experiment when he subsequently projects the portraits on the canvas and incorporates playful collages as an allusion to both his and the subject’s environment. The results are not just portraits but profiles of the people that inspired his artworks.
Brasileño also explores the Ilonggo identity by placing religious, indigenous, and contemporary iconographies in his paintings. In one of the paintings, a young maiden in traditional garb can be seen holding the icon of the Sto. Nino, reminiscent of the dancers seen during Iloilo City’s Dinagyang Festival. Another painting is a portrait of Nay Lucing, a chanter from Calinog who is part of the long line of kept-maidens or binukot from Panay Bukidnon, an indigenous people’s group that the artist immersed in during a research trip for a college project. Most of the portraits are of ordinary realities but in some portraits, the artist adorns the women subjects with crowns of different flowers in bloom and superimposes them in waves of fabric. The Ilonggos in Brasileño’s paintings are always preoccupied with a movement, an object, or a thought. In a self-portrait, the artist places his surrogate in the exhibition. Brasileño shifts the gaze back to him as his likeness stares at his audience, half of his face absent from the frame. He is part of the community that he portrays.
Furthermore, the exhibition title, Ilonggo Republic, also poses an important question. What makes an art piece Ilonggo or is there such a thing called Ilonggo art? Is there a focus on elements such as a distinct palette, a set of symbols, or the multiple layers of meanings and themes? It is an inquiry if there exists an Ilonggo aesthetic. Kristoffer Brasileño is a representative of artists whose art is rooted in the context of Iloilo, both the city and the province, as the places where he resided and the community with which he worked at different points in his art practice. However, the images he realistically renders on his canvases are not necessarily exclusive and bound by a place—in fact these images are, in a way, universal. In this exhibition, Brasileño’s paintings posit that labels are arbitrary. What weaves the vibrant and diverse art in Iloilo are the artists who make them.
Press Release from NCCA Gallery
Photos from Mr. J. Delan Robillos, curator
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