Myths and Truths
Recent Work by Rodel Tapaya
Curated by Matthias Arndt
Tang Contemporary, Beijing China
Opening: Saturday the 3rd of November, 2018
Exhibition dates: 03.11. - 15.12.2018
Born 1980, Rodel Tapaya lives and works in Bulacan, Philippines and is considered one of the most important Filipino painters of his generation and one of the most active artists working in Southeast Asia today. In his work, he conveys important stories of his country, the people and topical local societal issues from the Philippines that intertwine traditional storytelling within a contemporary context. As all great storytellers do, he draws connections between the imagined and the real, history and the present day, and myth and current events. As a figurative painter, Tapaya’s intriguing literary-based compositions transcend beyond their local context to universal situations and are reminiscent in style to painters from the German Expressionist tradition such as Neo Rauch, Max Beckmann, as well as finding parallels in the painterly developments of artists such as Daniel Richter and Peter Doig, among others.
Utilising a range of media — from large acrylic on canvasses to an exploration of under-glass painting, traditional crafts, diorama, and drawing —Tapaya filters his observations of the world through folktales and pre-colonial historical research, creating whimsical montages of his characters. Each work has its origin in Tapaya’s reflections on a particular time or place that possesses an enduring resonance, from its correspondence with the formalistic and psychological implication of the grid in his earlier works to protracted ventures which excavate and interpret myth and folk aesthetics.
Speaking about the symbolism in Tapaya’s work and further associations, Jaklyn Babington (Senior Curator, Contemporary Arts Practice – Global, National Gallery of Australia) comments “by drawing inspiration from pre-colonial mythology and Filipino folkloric tradition, Tapaya meticulously pieces together numerous pictorial fragments, fusing the otherworldly with the real, in a visual grappling with contemporary politics, social and environmental issues. Tapaya has been exhibiting for over a decade and has established an intriguing literary-based visual practice, unique in its Filipino perspective yet striking for its participation in the rich history of Hispanic narrative painting. His flat application of paint, cramped figurative compositions and mix of decorative surface with political messaging immediately evokes the work of the Mexican muralists and surrealists such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Frida Kahlo. However, in a constructed knotting of the social, political and environmental issues of Filipino life, Tapaya’s work illuminates a complicated contemporary existence. And, as with the great social narrative painters before him, the local issues grappled with are often of global significance.”
For Myths and Truths the artist will present a range of monumentally scaled paintings alongside medium scale works, an installation piece and film. The artist speaks about his solo project:
“A French anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss, founder of Structural Anthropology once said, “I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operates in men’s minds without their being aware of the fact.” This exhibition is about the exploration of the dichotomy between scientific truths and the rich mythical stories from my country, The Philippines.
As Levi-Strauss believed that myths are not simply a random construction of primitive beliefs or backward mentality instead myths are pseudo-histories. They provide the raw material for a systematic analysis of how humans unconscious mind works. As a young boy, I was told of a story about a giant named Bernardo Carpio who attempted to end the battle between two fighting mountains, however in the end he got buried as a prisoner inside those mountains, in the cliff in Montalban, Rizal, northern part of the Philippine to be exact. We believe that whenever there are tremors and earthquakes, people believed that Bernardo is trying to escape. I always believed this story as a fact. And it became the seed of my fascination about myths and folktales in my country.
In this new body of work, I have created forests, mountains and landscapes, familiar yet otherworldly. The elements in the myths are juxtaposed with present conditions prevailing in contemporary society. As humans we tend to see ourselves as giants and gods that can control nature but in the process creating our own ‘earthquakes’ and disasters. It is interesting for me to find connections and relations of myths and the present stories on ecological perspectives, combined with the consequences of humans insatiable desires resulting to man-made disasters.”
Rodel Tapaya, October 2018