Homage art is never easy. In honoring the work of great artists, one must transcend mere imitation and create something new.
Maya Ladyong’s second solo exhibit, “Eerbetoon,” which means “tribute” in Dutch, appears unencumbered with the weight of such expectations.
Instead, her work resonates with a charming sense of sentimentality which is more personal than polemic. There are no complex post-structuralist motivations here, just light-hearted reimaginations of some of art’s most iconic pieces, rendered with Maya’s signature two-dimensional origamis and washi textures.
Ladyong paints the Nike of Samothrace afloat on fragile cardboard wings, a reminder for the artist of her entrance test at the University of the Philippines’ Fine Arts program in which she was asked to draw a replica of the sculpture. When she saw the actual piece at the Louvre, she felt emotional and could not hold back her tears.
Mona Lisa’s smile eludes the viewer as a flock of paper cranes nestle on the face of Da Vinci’s muse.
“Da Vinci supposedly painted his own image as an underlayer in that painting,” Maya explained. “So who is Mona Lisa, really?”
Her Ophelia appears less tragic and heart-broken, as though lulled into a deep slumber by an armada of winged creatures.
“She was the hardest to paint because it was a challenge to render her expression, to make her appear alive and not dead,” said Ladyong.
She draws from her experience as an art teacher and owner-director of My Little Art Place (MyLAP), referencing various art movements and styles in her exhibit—certainly no easy task—by choosing pieces that are perennial favorites among her students.
At MyLap, which has opened for franchising, students as young as four recreate works by masters, celebrating mimicry as a fundamental technique in the age-old art of homage.
So Maya reimagines Klimt’s drapes against origami folds and creases. Mondrian’s minimalist lines and hues glide through cotton-candy clouds. Degas’ little ballerinas prepare to perform in geometrically sculpted tutus as Rousseau’s verdant jungles hide and reveal neatly folded creatures.
Here, too, seasons pass against Van Gogh’s palette of vibrant colors mixed with subtle hints of washi silver and gold.
Maya’s new paintings evolve from the distinct kawaii aesthetic of her earlier works, but she has matured technically and thematically. Deeply connected to her works and often finding it difficult to part with them since they “make me happy,” she must be informed they are certainly bound to spread the happiness elsewhere.
“Eerbetoon” is on view until Oct. 30 at Gallery Big, 2/F, LRI Design Plaza, 210 N. Garcia St., Bel-air, Makati City; tel. 7758888.