For Francis Alex “Kiko” Moran, it started with a leaf. “My teacher in first grade instructed us to draw a leaf and I noticed that I could draw it much better than my classmates.”
That was when he first realized that he was skilled in drawing. Others noticed as well. “My classmates commissioned me to draw a leaf for P1. And since then, I started to draw on everything.”
In class, instead of taking notes, he would just draw. The young artist would go on to compete in and win art contests. He would also become the editorial cartoonist of the school publication of his junior high school Caloocan High.
Today, the 22-year-old does a lot more than draw. Moran, who is a Visual Communication student at University of the East-Caloocan, calls himself an experimental artist.
“My style is the melting pot of all the different techniques and prominent art movements I utilized during childhood and up to this day,” Moran said. “
It’s a combination of cartooning, realism, abstraction and assemblage. I find freedom in applying different things without restricting my artistic self in one kind of technique. I am an experimental artist—trying out new things and combining them with my previous techniques to innovate my art while maintaining my sense of identity.”
And art is a big part of his identity. “My passion for art came when I understood the meaning and the relevance of it, as well as the feeling of being incomplete without it. It’s my purpose—a tool for communicating my ideas and an act that helps maintain my sanity.”
Moran, who grew up in Caloocan, describes it as “an environment full of social narratives about the consequences of poverty.” So it should come as no surprise that Moran’s art reflects social realities and injustices and he deftly uses satire and metaphors in his creative political expression.
“My paintings are mostly done through mixed media, the shape is unconventional, it’s very colorful and has a speech bubble influenced by manga and comics. My work is mostly based on personal experiences and social narratives. I objectively present stories into colorful visual representations to soothe and attract people’s eyes and perceptions to stories that should be heard in our society,” Moran said.
His work has been getting attention—and rightfully so. It has been exhibited in different galleries and institutions including the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Cultural Center of Philippines (CCP), Buklod Sining Organization, Qube Gallery, Imprimatura Gallery, SinePop, Number over Number and CollectorsXChange Gallery.
He calls “Citizen Hungry,” a mixed media painting that was exhibited at Qube Gallery’s “Carnival Quintet” one of the best paintings he has done. “I love it because it captures the social and political narrative of my countrymen. We are hungry for justice, equality, good governance and peace.”
“Carou-Xi” is Moran’s “political and satirical commentary about the passiveness of those people who are in power to the Chinese government.”
Another painting, “Wet and Warm,” exhibited at CollectorsXChange Gallery, is a sentimental favorite. “My family used to live in a flood-prone environment for 18 years . . . I also have an uncle and cousins whose house got submerged when Tropical Storm ‘Ondoy’ hit Metro Manila. My mother and uncles were once farmers in our province and strong typhoons always destroyed their crops.”
He combined all these stories in one artwork that makes a statement about global warming. He said, “The poor are the ones who are and will always be affected by these persistent floodings. I also included one of the reasons this universal problem exists: the industries of developed countries and their CO2 emissions. We only have a decade left to prevent the irreversible effects of human-induced climate change.”
“It’s not painful anymore” is a mixed-media painting that is very personal to Moran. “I love it because it’s the representation of my healing. I grew up in a tough environment, full of tensions and problems. Then the pandemic came, it made my life miserable—the death of a loved one, relationship break-up, financial crisis, COVID-19 anxiety and stressful online schooling, all contributed to my mental distress. Months later, thankfully, I managed to cope when I discovered meditation, it helped me in my healing.”
He has another work inspired by his meditation journey called “Mindfulness.”
Another definite favorite, and a reason Moran has grabbed a lot of people’s attention including ours, is his series of “Imyunito” sculptures.
“I love it because it’s not just a sculpture; it is a symbol of hope and heroism through vaccination,” he said.
The sculptures show people with a syringe (containing the COVID vaccine, of course) in their arm and Moran’s trademark speech bubbles near their face, saying all kinds of things from “Bye Covid!” and “Finally!” to “Vax and Roll!” and “Stick It to Me!”
Moran said, “I lost a loved one due to COVID-19. There was no vaccine at that time. It was very heartbreaking, especially when you see that this painful situation happens not only to your family but also to the families of your friends . . . When the vaccine arrived in our country, I found out that most people in my community were afraid to take it. The hesitancy in getting the vaccines slows the progress of the national immunization program. Then fake news spreading false information that vaccination kills people frightened the public. That’s why I made Imyunito.”
“Imyunito” comes from the phrase “immune ito,” he said. “I promote vaccination through my ‘Imyunito’ sculptures. I want ‘Imyunito’ to spread the message of hope and heroism through vaccination, as it is not only ourselves that we help but also our community when we are vaccinated. I believe that it’s the best way to eradicate this virus for us to live safely again.”
All worth it
Moran got vaccinated in Caloocan. He said, “I’m amazed at how fast and smooth the vaccination process was. The nurse was very kind and gentle, I didn’t even feel the needle pierce through my skin. I experienced having muscle pain and headache for two days. But it was all worth it because it’s for my safety and the safety of those around me.”
Offbeatcreatives Studio helped make the series possible. The first batch of sculptures was exhibited at Qube Gallery and the second batch showcased at SinePop. Moran’s “Imyunito” sculptures, which he also refers to as toys, can be purchased through Offbeatcreatives (tel. 0917-3214207; email@example.com; @offbeatcreatives on Instagram).
This experimental young artist is just getting started.
“As long as the world is full of wickedness, lies and oppression that slows the progress of our civilization, I’ll continue to create beautiful works to inspire people to live. I’ll create something that spreads and preserves truth for us to liberate and innovate the lives of other people, especially those who are oppressed and less privileged. My art is not just about pleasing the eyes but also communicating messages worth communicating.”
Facebook.com/ artistkikomoran; @kiko_moran on Instagram