Jun Orland Espinosa: Carving a Name for Himself


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Jun Orland Espinosa came from a family of carvers. His older brother’s selection as a finalist in the Philippine Art Awards inspired him to pursue artmaking. The young sculptor has since then carved a path for his own with his use of instinctive compositions, acceptance of mentorship, and experimentation of media.

While studying Architecture at the Iloilo Science and Technology University, the younger Espinosa started joining exhibitions organized by collectives in Iloilo City. His wood sculptures that can be described as surreal — distorted humanoid bodies; chained human parts oftentimes the mouth and vertebra, and limbs and extremities bonded together. His imagination transformed from wood using traditional carving tools.

In 2019, Espinosa was selected as one of the participants in a year-long mentorship with the artists, Renato Habulan and Alfredo Esquillo under the Eskinita Gallery. During this time, there is a notable change in his art. He started making wall-bound pieces, sometimes in grid/frame and oftentimes mishmashed. He started using colors in his sculptures, most prominently the colors black and vermillion which calls to mind the hue from Renaissance art and Chinese lacquer paintings. His linework also became noticeable as he engraves on wood and sometimes layers of acrylic on canvas, using his carving tools.

In his recent works, Espinosa deviated from the usual medium into the unconventional ones that include lead and automotive materials including paint without losing the depth and tactile characteristics that were found in his earlier works. Despite the changes in his medium, Espinosa is consistent in his exploration of the body, soul, and spirit.

How did you get into art?
My brother won as a finalist in Philippine Art Awards. It became a door for me to be involved in contemporary art.  

Your wood sculptures seemed very personal, how do you get started with a sculpture?
Yes, my works are more on my personal experiences and observations. Most of it is has a religious context as I’m very active in my spiritual life. I consider my style as “Personal Realism”.  

Do you consider your subject matter first? Or do you go ahead and carve on the wood?
I rarely do study drawings on my major artworks. I create my subjects or imagery in my head based on my observations, experience, and consciousness. And then I transfer it on canvas or wood in a subconscious attempt.

Are you doing full-time work as an artist now? What keeps you busy aside from making artworks?
Yes, I’m a full-time artist since midyear of 2017. Most of my works have religious context because of my active spiritual life. I am attending worship services twice a week. Somedays we are doing other church activities that also make us busy.

You received mentorship from artists like Alfredo Esquillo and Renato Habulan, what are the important things that you have learned from them?
Tuklas program is an opportunity, especially for the upcoming artists. They offer a grant for a solo exhibition under Eskinita Art Gallery. At the same time, they also help fund the artists by collecting some of the artworks. Aside from getting compliments, mentoring under Sir Ato and Sir Eski is very progressive. They taught us brief art history, art theories, art ethics. They also shared some curatorial ideas, art techniques that are connected to our styles, how to become sustainable artists, and lessons based on their life experiences. Tuklas mentoring is like enrolling in an art class.  

You have seemed to change media in your recent works, what made you decide to do this?
Art has no boundaries its limitless. But most of the Ilonggo artists are only using traditional materials which are acrylic and oil paints. These materials are also very limited because Iloilo lacks stores that sell these art materials.
I’m not against the artists using those materials. But then my aim in using unusual art materials like lead or automotive materials because I want to push for art to evolve in Iloilo — evolution not just in styles, techniques, and imagery but also in the usage of art materials. The choice of materials, for me, is also a form of art.  

Would you consider material as a primary factor in an artwork, versus the subject or the image?
Art materials and imagery of every pieces are both important, they have both significance in my artwork. Using unusual materials and creating images sometimes is quite difficult but I’m enjoying all the output and every finished piece.  

What other media would you like to experiment on in the future?
I’m planning to use bones of dead animals and galvanized iron materials.

(Photos by the artist and Ted Aldwin Ong)

Allyn Canja
Allyn Canja works for a contemporary art museum in Iloilo City. She is a fellow of the San Agustin Writers Workshop, and co-founder of Poetika.


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