Quantcast
Latest Stories

Pio Abad’s art of archeology

The UK-based Filipino multimedia artist mines history and current events and conflates them in very expressive everyday objects such as scarves and wallpaper

By

THE ARTIST

He processes thoughts through images, weaving visual narratives in imitation Hermès scarves, for instance, or locking in cultural history in a perfume bottle.

Filipino multimedia artist Pio Abad, among the emerging stars in the UK art scene, likes compressing large, complex ideas in the most banal objects. The extravagant lifestyle of Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, for instance, as shown by gold-plated water taps that decked his palace, became the central motif of his imitation Versace silk scarf.

“OH! OH! OH! (A Universal History of Iniquity),” installation; Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, 2013. The use of cultural spectacles, such as architectural pieces de resistance, mask harsher political realities.

Abad’s uncanny ability to condense the profound into everyday objects has made his art accessible. Perhaps it is inevitable that politics and history find their way into his works.

The son of Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Batanes Rep. Dina Abad, he grew up listening to political discussions on the breakfast table.

But for the artist, who will turn 30 this year, it’s all about making narrative links in a visually expressive work—without becoming too preachy.

“I’ve always been a student of history,” he said. “I try to expand the [historical] connections, because one thing is never really autonomous. But I don’t want to be an activist. That’s not the position I want. I’m an artist. I’m more interested in the link between the artist and the archeologist.”

That sense of archeology is born out of his passion to make his art relevant. “Naghuhukay ako, excavating these stories and trying to find personal links to them,” Abad said.

 

London, Pyongyang

His recently concluded one-man show at the Zabloduwicz Collection in Camden, London, where he was selected as one of six artists for its 2013 Invites Series, was inspired by his father’s 1989 visit to Pyongyang, North Korea. Secretary Abad was among the Philippine delegates to the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, a quasi Olympics and cultural festival.

“1986-2010,” installation, Royal Academy of Art, London, 2012. The installation attempts to unpack the different fantasies that shaped the Marcos dictatorship in the late ’70s to the early ’80s.

Abad found photographs of Pyongyang in his dad’s library. What started with a personal photograph expanded into architecture—Abad constructed a replica of sorts of Pyongyang’s controversial Ryugyong Hotel. The hotel, whose name means Capital of Willows but has since been nicknamed the “hotel of doom,” was constructed in 1987 with the grand ambition of becoming the world’s tallest tower. It remains unfinished.

“I didn’t plan to make a show about North Korea, but the exhibit opened when Pyongyang was making the headlines again,” he said. “I’ve had my dad’s photographs for quite a while. It’s about how personal photos can actually end up discussing larger things. There is no message there—that’s tricky because you have to let the viewers interpret the work—but it’s trying to find the relationship of that singular event to the rest of history.”

Abad graduated as one of seven First Honors (equivalent to summa cum laude) at the Glasgow School of Art in 2007 before moving to London to pursue his master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Arts.

It was his aunt, the late artist Pacita Abad, who encouraged him to look for opportunities abroad. He had already been studying for a year-and-a-half at University of the Philippines Diliman when she gave him a list of schools to consider abroad. His aunt had been among his early mentors, giving him art lessons since he was a child. He recalls visiting his aunt to watch her paint.

“Dazzler,” Glasgow Festival of Visual Art, 2012. The ’70s pinup Bo Derek becomes an unlikely link in weaving of either stories from WorldWar II, disco era and George Bush’s Republican Party.

“Maybe that’s why I don’t paint,” he said, laughing. He has big shoes to fill now that his aunt is gone.

“MIRA” III, digital print on silk twill, 2012

After school he lived for three more years in Scotland, working in a studio by the railway tracks in the old industrial city. He was fortunate, he said, to have been in Scotland when the art scene was most vibrant. Glasgow was then like a DIY scene for the arts, where artists opened galleries everywhere— in warehouses, in the streets, even bedrooms were transformed into galleries.

Art, he said, is subjective, and that means graduating with top honors will not be so relevant in the real world. He was lucky, he insisted, that he graduated with a lot of support and interest in his work. So much interest, in fact, that his exhibit sold out, earning him the equivalent of P1.5 million in just one day.

 

Work

He, however, remains level-headed—working every day, disciplining himself to keep a 9-5 schedule.

“FOR ANTIIMPERIALIST Solidarity, Peace and Friendship,” Zabludowicz
Collection, London, 2013

“There will always be a romantic view of the artist because of the nature of what we do, but at the end of the day, it’s work. And that’s a good way of keeping yourself level-headed,” he said.

“1986-2010” installation, Royal Academy of Art, London, 2012. Imelda Marcos believed she was the reincarnation of the ancient Assyrian queen Semiramis.

He has also recently wrapped up an exhibit in Hong Kong titled, “Oh! Oh! Oh! (A Universal History of Iniquity),” at the Osage Gallery, as part of an exhibition called “Market Forces: A Friction of Opposites.”

A printed wallpaper he designed was inspired by a chandelier at the Philippine International Convention Center. It also showed perfume bottles with references to the Middle East, such as the camel, the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa.

“Like a lot the work I make, the piece brings together two different historical narratives that initially don’t seem related, but put in the same space, you begin to unpack the relationships that link them,” he said.

“For instance, the use of cultural spectacles, in this case architectural pieces de resistance, to mask harsher political realities and the role that individuals can play in manufacturing the representation of national cultures, whether they are authentic or not.”

Pio Abad’s next exhibit will be in October at Silverlens on Don Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo), Makati City. He will also return to Manila to do projects for a grant program from Deutsche Bank.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Art , History , Lifestyle , Pio Abad



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  3. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. The truffled mac ‘n’ cheese, eggs benedict, chicken leg confit are excellent
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • US urges Myanmar to ease tensions
  • Little known jihadist group vows new Egypt attacks
  • Chelsea Clinton pregnancy
  • Call for sanctions against N. Korea over abuses
  • Pope washes feet of disabled, including elderly Muslim
  • Sports

  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Hopkins, 49, seeks win for the ageless
  • LeBron still No. 1 with NBA’s most popular jersey
  • Pacquiao back in PH, heads home to wife, kids
  • Vietnam pulls out of hosting Asian Games due to lack of funds
  • Lifestyle

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Entertainment

  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • Business

  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • US stocks end mostly higher after earnings deluge
  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Filipina Maryknoll sister honored for years of service
  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
    Marketplace