The Diversity of Philippine Art Influences

The archipelago of the Philippines has been exposed to several foreign influences during its colonial times. From the Spanish conquistadors, to the Japanese invasion and finally ending with the American soldiers who eventually gave the country back to its local population. The cultural diversity of the Philippines is rather prominent, especially in its artistic societies, where movements from different sides of the world collide to create breathtaking and beautiful masterpieces.

Today, we take a look at some of the country's artists who have either shaped or are currently shaping the Philippines' tastes in modern and contemporary art. First off we have the glass sculptures of Ramon Orlina, a peer to the great Dale Chihully (maestro of blown glass art). His style of glass sculpture involves the direct carving of solid glass blocks- a process that he himself popularized as a pioneer. Orlina's method may have arisen due to the complexities of glass casting back in the day, however his proprietary style has now become a favorite for many prominent collectors around the country.

His carved figures are mostly considered to be geometrically abstract constructs, with some formless pieces that reflect and refract light similarly to how the ocean waves create their natural shimmering against the sandy beaches. Orlina has been touted to be the Philippines' most popular glass artisan today, even establishing his own museum for Filipino communities to view and learn from his hard-won original process.

Another sculptor who has gained a nationwide following for creating works that draw from multiple cultures, is Kylo Chua. A Chinese-Filipino artist from Vancouver, Chua works with a variety of hyper-elegant media such as gold, porcelain and bronze. His main material though is cast marble, which he is able to contort in ways that allow him to bring out the graceful feminine appeal within his abstract, humanist figurines. Several of his works depict couples or families, stylized to embody a theme of endless connection and infinite existence. His works have been featured all throughout the country, as well as in Tokyo, Canada and London.

Some of his works are scaled to miniaturized proportions, earning the name "Thumbeline Sculptures", for their tiny, yet fairy-like golden silhouettes. The Artasia Gallery in Manila, is a product of his passion for sculpture, along with his mentor and father, Seb Chua and his uncle, the late Maximo Chan who was also an award winning sculptor and architect in the country.

Sculpture in the Philippines, isn't just about modernity and abstraction though. One famous artisan from Paete, carves realistic faces into alabaster, wood and other mediums to illustrate the passionate hearts of the Filipino people. Fred Baldemor has been sculpting for over three decades, and has been able to create masterful pieces derived from the faces and bodies of his muses. His beautifully classical work are often seen throughout the prominent houses of Manila, being that his craft has earned him a place in the eye of serious collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Baldemor maintains his studio himself, hand-carving his sculptures in the fashion that he's take on since the birth of his trade. From humble beginnings, he has climbed the artistic ladder to sit amongst the very top as one of the great artisans that the archipelago can proudly appreciate.

Aside from carving, Filipinos also love to paint. Historical records have shown us the incredible pieces of painters like Malang, Amorsolo and Joya. Many of whom were able to lead their respective movements in the scope of art genres within the nation's multi-cultural heritage. One of the late masters, Ang Kiu Kok, was of Chinese descent, but was able to strongly influence the avant-garde Filipino painters of later generations through his primal cubist style, proliferating colors of stark contrast against textures that were bold and full of emotion.

Kiu Kok's paintings garnered him the admiration of many collectors, up until his passing in 2005. Today, he still lives on through the beauty and impact of his many works, all of which stay precious in the permanent collections of the Philippines' colleges, schools and private galleries.

Artworks by Filipino Artists (Ramon Orlina, Kylo Chua, Fred Baldemor, Jose Joya, Kiu Kok Ang) Photography by Filbert Tiu and Publications of the Artists