Pongbayog's enigmatic portraits make their way to Italy

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Pong Bayog
Artist Pong Bayog | Photo by JT Fernandez

Filipino artist Pongbayog exhibits his enigmatic portraits at a special exhibition in Venice



Known for his enigmatic black-and-white portraits, Pongbayog (b.1982) creates hyperrealist work that straddles reality and metaphorical worlds using interplays of detailed brushstrokes that create larger depictions of light, perspective, and shadows.

In an exhibition organized by the European Cultural Centre, the Filipino artist will be exhibiting works at the Palazzo Mora in Venice, alongside fellow DF Art Agency artists under Derek Flores.

Flores, who spearheaded the project, brought together the roster of artists for the “Personal Structures” project, with the complementary exhibit “Textures and Interstices.” 

The exhibit will feature the works of artists from the Philippines including Alfredo Esquillo, Anna Bautista, Cedrick Dela Paz, Demi Padua, Dino Gabito, Isko Andrade, Manny Garibay, Mark Andy Garcia, Marrie Saplad, Max Balatbat, Raffy Napay, and Pongbayog.

Marie Sapland and Pong Bayog
Pongbayog will be exhibiting in the exhibition alongside his wife, fellow renowned artist Marie Saplad

“Textures and Interstices” explores the evolving direction of Philippine art, with its diverse influences and experimentations with mediums, all the while as artists grasp the complex social conditions. Overall, the exhibit studies how the diversity in the Philippines is shaped by individual experiences. 

READ MORE: Artist Anna Bautista exhibits at the Palazzo Mora in Venice

Meanwhile, the “Textures and Interstices” in the work of Bayog reveal a deeply personal and contemplative touch. Despite his works having a sense of mystery and touch of darkness, the artist himself is a light, soft-spoken figure.

With a gentle and mild-mannered way, Bayog tells the LIFESTYLE.INQ team how his inspiration stems from encounters at his church, and what he sees—from church-goers’ clothes to their hair styles, suggesting he spends time observing the congregation during the ceremony. 

On a deeper level, he elucidates how the back-facing figures symbolize universal individuals devoid of specific identity. “Na-represent siya ng kahit sino na individual. ’Yung intention na ’yun ay para makita ’yung buhok at yung beauty—na hindi siya usual pinipaint na mukha.”

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Being raised by a supportive father, who was a farmer with his own artistic dreams, nudged Bayog in his journey to study art further. On Bayog’s distinct chiaroscuro technique, he describes how he would pore over art books in his high school and his college libraries, studying the works by  Caravaggio and other Italian artists during the Baroque period while also researching Renaissance techniques. 

His works are hyperrealistic to the point of perfection. Upon this comment he replies, “Hindi naman siya masasabi ng perfect, na-i-improve lang siya dahil doon sa ‘practice makes perfect.’ Kahit ’yung mga artista na iniidolo ko laging hindi perfect.”

Pong Bayog art
“Into the Light” oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. 2024

For the exhibit, his painting “Into the Light” features a monochrome portrait of a woman’s head, her pale neck contrasting against the folds in her blouse with a Peter Pan collar. She wears polka dot bows as the artist highlights every strand of hair. Bayog points out the background with trees represents the earthly world “or kung saan tayo ngayon,” he says, “Tas ’yung darkness ay nasa side sa left. [Pero] nakatingin siya sa right, pumupunta sa liwanag… Dapat sasabihin natin ’yung makatulong sa tao ay ang mabubuti, na pupunta dapat lagi sa liwanag.”

Pong Bayog
Photo by JT Fernandez

The vernissage will take place on Apr. 18 and 19, 2024, at Salon 219 in the Palazzo Mora in Venice, Italy. Public opening will start in Apr. 20, 2024 until Nov. 24, 2024.  


Special thanks to Derek Flores and Portia Placino.

Photography by JT Fernandez

Video by Mikey Yabut and Claire Salonga

Production assistance by Martin Agustin

Produced by Ria Prieto

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