Artist Anton Belardo and his melancholic ’50s housewife alter-ego Jellyfishkisses — who sports green hair, blue skin, and a nose ring — isn’t the poster child for “ALT: The Art Show Reframed,” but as far as we’re concerned, he may as well be.
But for all the buzz surrounding the newest art festival, which debuts this weekend ahead of the more established Art Fair Philippines at the SMX Convention Center in Taguig’s SM Aura Premiere, Belardo is quick to point out that instead of focusing on the show-runners, the artists are the true focus.
“All we can do as artists is to bring our best,” Belardo told Coconuts Manila after we visited his booth, a dollhouse-inspired panic room, padded with soft-sculptures he stitched entirely from scratch.
Belardo is participating in both ALT, for Gallery Vinyl on Vinyl, and in next week’s Art Fair, and noted that both feature “a lot of great artists.”
“And I think it’s about the artist, not the fair. Honestly, I can’t really say if there’s much of a difference” between the two fairs, he added. “They’re both opportunities that you’re given, and it’s up to you to make good on the space. And hopefully, I did enough.”
The Fine Arts graduate, who worked seven years as a fashion stylist noted that, “all in all, I think I’ve stitched about a thousand seams for all the shows this February.”
His booth at the single-level, 10-gallery exhibition is hard to miss — it’s the green one with the pink neon sign. Attendees can duck into what Belardo calls the “panic room,” where, for a maximum of five minutes at a time, visitors can share with the artist anything they want to talk about in a “safe space.” Belardo himself, as Jellyfishkisses, will be in the booth for the duration of the fair, listening to visitors talk, confession-style. After the impromptu therapy sesh, visitors get drawings and advice on a piece of prescription paper.
“It’s probably safe to go after lunch to be sure I’ll be there. I’ll be there until the show closes, taking small breaks throughout the day,” he said, and added that he has always experimented with the concept of space in his work.
“For ALT, I wanted to play with the idea of a panic room. But the inspiration behind it is because I would get depressed from time to time, and instead of sleeping it off for say a week, I want to be productive with my time. So I go to this website called blahtherapy.com. And on that website, you can listen to people or you can rant. So I thought I would recreate a physical version of that website. I thought it would be a valuable thing to give to my audience — time and a listening ear.”
The 33-year-old artist said the notion of “safe space” grew out of his traumas experienced growing up as both genderqueer and perpetually awkward.
“My work is very feminine and female energy, but also in extremes. I have a habit of using two words that are complete opposites in my work, like ‘Jellyfishkisses,’ who’s poisonous and pretty, and then sweet. Also soft punk, because you wouldn’t know what to think when you look at me, but then I can also be really vulnerable, judging from my works.”
Just outside Belardo’s booth is Tyang Karyel’s “Castle of Pain,” another interactive space that seems to complement Belardo’s. The handmade acrylic funhouse, cobbled from scrap wood and plywood, is an ode to Karyel’s memories of seeing her father use power tools for the first time.
Beside it is a Reen Barrera sculpture. A large-scale version of a painted wooden wind-up toy, made even more realistic by the pupils in its eye that dart from side to side.
At Galleria Duemila’s booth, Josephine Turalba’s 146-piece mahjong set (one of five editions) immediately catches eye. The pieces, a political statement on the Philippines’ strained relationship with China, mines such hurts as the West Philippine Sea dispute with the printed plastic tiles bearing designs like bullets, “Burgos Reef,” and a bolo (Philippine machete), among other things.
Turalba calls the pieces “Todas,” which in Filipino could both mean “All” or “Dead.”
Another interesting piece is Derek Tumala’s installation “Pure Impermanence,” which comprises still and moving images that the new media artist assembled across 10 screens. Tumala celebrates “fleeting moments” and “nowness” to reflect on how we view images in the age of smartphones.
Sit through it for a bit and see how a montage of seemingly disparate images — an island kid in a Kobe Bryant jersey on a beach, people clubbing in Makati, bombs dropping, smiling tourists, the ocean — all seem to mesh together. It’s something that written descriptions simply don’t do justice.
On the more traditional, mixed-media end is Geraldine Javier’s “Combine Paintings with Dancing Roots,” which as its title points out, combines acrylic paint on wood panels with preserved tree roots. The 50-year-old artist is known for blending paint with various media, and has said that her works are “about filling the space with dead specimens and dressing them up to make them seem alive, but it is also a personal process, simultaneously emptying out and remembering.”
Meanwhile, between booths is “Alt For Taal,” where artists from all 10 galleries submitted works for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to the victims of the Taal eruption.
And there’s plenty more to see at ALT 2020. But the question is, are you going?
ALT: The Art Show Reframed runs Feb. 14, to Feb. 16 at SMX Convention Center
SM Aura Premier, 26th Street corner 1630 McKinley Parkway, Taguig City; 11am – 8pm
Tickets are PHP250 (US$5), available onsite or via the SM Tickets website.