Gold in Our Veins tells the story of a re-imagined antiquity through a series of portraits inspired by the ancient histories of Indochina, the East Indies, and the Philippine Archipelago. Together with these works of art are objects from the Ayala Museum’s collection handpicked by Higgins himself to expand the exhibition’s narrative; an unprecedented undertaking as the museum’s objects for the first time will be shown beyond their historical and cultural significance.
“My inspirations continually come from very ancient places – from the books I have read to the locations I have visited. For this series I took elements of the pre-Colonial histories and cultures of our region and its environs, and rendered them into my own vision of contemporary Southeast Asian art,” says Higgins.
Higgin’s paintings feature aristocratic men and women surrounded by tropical flora, ancient sea routes and script, gold ornaments, animist symbols, and sacred idols. His work celebrates the complex heritage and shared culture of Southeast Asia from the Philippine perspective. The visual journey is then elevated with a selection of Philippine archaeological gold, indigenous textiles, and Chinese and Southeast Asian tradeware ceramics from the Ayala Museum collection, all showcased in an installation created by acclaimed scenographer, Gino Gonzales.
Born in the Philippines to an Anglo-Irish father and a Chinese-Filipino mother, Higgins was educated in Toronto and New York. In the succeeding years, he would spend several months at a time painting in Rome, New York and Hong Kong. He returned to Manila where his career as a visual artist began to center around Philippine history and design. For the past decade, Mark and his sister Sandra have also served as co-directors of Slim’s Fashion and Arts School founded in 1960 by their late mother, Salvacion Lim Higgins, one of the most progressive fashion designers of her generation.
“These paintings are a celebration of the richness of our past that is deeply rooted in our DNA and of which many Filipinos may have never even been aware,” Higgins says about the exhibition. “Far beyond the limits and borders of what became countries or nations, we are all maps of our ancestors. This is my tribute to the gold that flows in all of our veins.”