Philippine arts

PH artists’ imaginations run wild at ‘Street Dreams: The Art of Pop Surrealism’ exhibit

Juno Reyes

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PH artists’ imaginations run wild at ‘Street Dreams: The Art of Pop Surrealism’ exhibit

LOWBROW ART. 50 Filipino artists showcase their work at Art Lounge Manila for the Street Dreams: The Art of Pop Surrealism exhibit.

Juno Reyes/Rappler

We speak with some of the artists to learn more about the story behind the work, and what drew them to Lowbrow Art in the first place

MANILA, Philippines – Bursts of color and the most vivid visions drawn from one’s imagination all thrive in the world of Lowbrow Art, also known as Pop Surrealism. This art style is the epitome of going against the current, and doing everything but the ordinary.  

So, when there’s an entire exhibit dedicated to Filipino artists who specialize in Pop Surrealism, you already know that you can expect to see a vast array of eye-catching art pieces that encapsulate the unconventional. 

On February 2, Art Plus Magazine held the artists’ reception for Street Dreams: The Art of Pop Surrealism, where 50 Filipino artists came together to showcase their pieces in their own take on Lowbrow Art. The exhibition, which will run until February 8, goes hand in hand with the magazine’s upcoming release of a coffee table book featuring these very artists. 

LOWBROW ARTISTS. 15 of the 50 lowbrow artists who have the work displayed at ‘Street Dreams: The Art of Pop Surrealism.’ Juno Reyes/Rappler

We spoke with some of the artists whose pieces were on display at Street Dreams: The Art of Pop Surrealism to learn more about the story behind their work, as well as what drew them to Pop Surrealism in the first place. 

For big thinkers

For Jomar Delluba – whose work puts a modern, witty spin on classic Renaissance era paintings – Pop Surrealism serves as an outlet for his imagination to run wild. 

“Kasi malikot yung isip ko. Hindi ako kuntento na mastuck sa pagkokopya lang ng isang bagay. Naghahanap ako ng kakaibang isip na kung ano ‘yung naiimagine ko, kung ano ‘yung pumapasok sa utak ko, ‘yun ‘yung ilalagay ko diyan. Gusto ko ‘yung nakakatuwa siya, ‘yung maiiba mundo mo, ‘yung matatawa ka sa pinapakita ng painting,” Delluba explained. 

(Because my mind is restless. I’m not content with being stuck at just copying one thing. I’m looking for a unique outlet where I can create whatever I imagine and whatever goes into my head. I want it to be interesting, something that can change your world, something that will make you laugh at what the painting is depicting.) 

Pop Surrealism is where imperfections and disproportions are celebrated, so artists like Jesse Camacho find solace in the art style. Having started painting in high school, Camacho had tried out a myriad of different art styles like Realism before finally arriving at Pop Surrealism, which he describes as fun and playful. 

“I really enjoy [Pop Surrealism] lalo na’t napakalaya lang niyang gawin, and then at the same time, para lang akong nananaginip ‘pag ginagawa ko siya…. Masaya siya gawin and relaxing kasi hindi ko kailangan icompare ‘yung gawa ko sa iba,” he said. 

(I really enjoy Pop Surrealism especially since it feels so free, and then at the same time, it’s like I’m just dreaming when I’m making art…. It’s fun and relaxing because I don’t feel the need to compare my work to others’.) 

On display at the exhibit is his painting titled My Lobster, which features Jack – Camacho’s subconscious representation of himself – gazing lovingly at a lobster claw. According to Camacho, the painting tells the story of two inseparable individuals who are meant to be. The artist drew inspiration from a particular scene in the popular sitcom Friends, where Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe Buffay says, “You’re my lobster.” 

THE CLAW. My Lobster by Jesse Camacho. Juno Reyes/Rappler
Identity in art

Meanwhile, artist Ireland Jill made her foray into Pop Surrealism to find her own identity.

“I studied in an art school. Syempre (Of course), in art school, they teach you the old ways and traditional ways [of doing art]. And then when I finished art school, I tried other art styles,” she said. 

When she familiarized herself further with the local art scene, the other artists she eventually came to look up to gave her one resounding piece of advice: “Don’t try to make an artwork that’s good to look at. It has to be an artwork that speaks for itself.” 

Ireland then began incorporating her favorite things into her work to make for a lively finished product that can have people tell right off the bat that what they’re looking at is her work. For instance, her oil on canvas painting Two of a Kind has two strawberries front and center, simply because she likes them. 

TWINNING. Two of a Kind by Ireland Jill. Juno Reyes/Rappler

Interestingly, while Two of a Kind uses soft, dream-like pastel, it is actually a depiction of her own struggle with impostor syndrome, where she contends with her two selves. The painting, framed in bright pink borders, shows a set of identical twins each holding onto the same strawberry – but one twin appears to be happy, while the other isn’t. 

It’s the same for Denmark Maribojoc, who had only discovered Pop Surrealism recently when he was looking for a different art style that could really reflect his individuality outside of more traditional mediums. 

Similar to Ireland, Maribojoc’s work includes fragments of the things he holds dear. Fittingly, his oil on canvas painting, Guidance, alludes to his love for his pets. 

DOGGY. Guidance by Denmark Maribojoc. Juno Reyes/Rappler

“Maalaga ako sa mga hayop, sa pusa at sa aso. Sila kasi ‘yung mga protector namin usually, so parang naging stress reliever ko rin ‘yung mga pets,” he explained. 

(I like taking care of animals like dogs and cats. They’re usually our protectors, so they kind of also became my stress relievers.) 

While Pop Surrealism lets artists express their personal interests through their work, it also stands as a platform for artists to produce art that breaks out of their comfort zone. This is the case for Kwin Chi, who would usually create simple portraits.

“No’ng nagsolo [show] ako doon sa Secret Fresh, narealize ko na mas maganda kung may mga sarili kang character (When I did a solo show in Secret Fresh, I realized it would be better if I had my own characters),” Kwin Chi said.

Thus, her characters Chew It and Whiz were born. Chew It is a group of three pieces of pink bubblegum with big eyes, while Whiz is a piece of green popcorn with a shocked expression on its face. These characters accompany Kwin Chi’s central character named Xinyi in her paintings.

CANDY. Xinyi and Whiz and Xinyi and Chew It by Kwin Chi. Juno Reyes/Rappler

As with any creative, these artists all create Lowbrow Art for different reasons. Some do it to challenge traditional art styles, while others do it to express their individuality and personal struggles. But at the end of the day, they all share the same unique ability to bring the depths of their imaginations to life.

Street Dreams: Art of Pop Surrealism will run until February 8 at Art Lounge Manila on the Ground Floor of The Podium. –

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