Transformations was a thesis work for the class of Roberto Chabet at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts presented in 1998. It consists of 3 videos documenting the journey of three enamel paintings around the metro. The original paintings (which were destroyed during the process of the video work) became the main inspiration for my current enamel-based works.
Inspiration is evident when I first encountered the stickers and decals found on the windshields of this preeminent public transportation vehicle, the jeepney. I consider them as minute forms of public art, the jeepneys being mobile containers of these small scale artworks. For Transformations I created exact replicas of three stickers in a more conspicuous, larger scale of three to four feet, using enamel on plywood. A handle was attached to it rendering it mobile and I literally carried it around like some sort of signage, transforming myself into a bipedal “jeepney”. My journey with the artwork was documented rather crudely as we traveled together in places and situations where the decals are obviously not endemic to the environment.
The paintings are a celebration of Philippine pop culture and are also a reflection of my morbid fascination with kitsch imagery. The paintings break away from the gallery space as its primary venue of exhibition and then displayed and showcased in other cultural establishments and situations as an extension of the streets of Manila—gritty yet softened by humor. Using a Sony 8mm video camera, a journalistic narrative was created with the paintings being the center of focus through the entire journey. Each painting has its own “episode”, or a particular situation wherein the “transformation” occurs. From jeepney decals, to public art, to an actual painting, to a wedding gift, to some court room evidence, to a dance club prop—the context of the work changes in different situations. The final scene brings the paintings to a literal clean slate when the images came back from the recesses of the streets, leaving the primitive form and silhouette of the wooden panels. In contrast to a fade to black transition, the paintings were cloaked in white paint to play its final part of the story.
During the thesis deliberation in October of 1998, the “whitened-out” paintings became the walls of the gallery space itself where the final scene involves the paintings to be “at home” at last, leaning in solitude. As its pièce de résistance, three video projectors simultaneously played the documented video scenes on each corresponding whitened-out painting, like a triptych roused by the ghosts of its very own images.