Scuttling towards the end of June and entering what we can only presume is another month of general community quarantine, creatives continue to find alternative ways to share both their art and thoughts on the current political and social climate in a time when physical contact is at a bare minimum. We’re checking in with a few of the country’s wave-makers to see how they’re holding up and what their day-to-day routines are looking like now. Normally always on the go, now they have no choice but to sit still and answer some of our questions.
This is Lockdown Sessions.
Visual artist Anna Bautista has racked up quite a few achievements in the past couple of years—from being the designer of UKNWN and CC:Concepts to co-owning start-up SupportYourFriends, she also began her professional career as a painter with two solo exhibits to her name—all while still a student at De La Salle University. Through her art, Anna blends classic Filipino imagery with the pressing current events of today, tackling prevalent issues in the form of satire.
Where are you currently locked down?
I am currently locked down here in our place in Makati along with my family and our Yorkshire Terrier.
Describe a usual day for you before the lockdown started.
A usual weekday for me would be to get up at 7AM to sip my coffee and then go to my last few classes in La Salle and afterward head straight to the office. I’m lucky that my school internship-turned-real job at CC:Concepts & UNKNWN starts a bit later than most corporate companies so I can just come in on time.
After work, it’s either I have dinner with friends out or head straight home. Then afterward, I shift my attention to working on our start-up that I co-own, SupportYourFriends or SYF.
If I have the time, I then work on my personal projects.
What was the last thing you did before quarantine?
A few days before the NCR lockdown was announced, I had a good night out spent with my colleagues and bosses at CC:Concepts & UNKNWN. We were then having our own little “fiestal” amongst ourselves. Especially because we had to call off our Music Festival “UNKNWN Fiesta” due to safety measures in light of the virus.
That time, we had no idea it would turn out like this nor that things would get this severe.
What are your days like now under quarantine?
My days still start with a cup of coffee! Just with a whole lot less of human interaction now.
I’d say my days are still quite full since I still have a few online classes to attend to at DLSU and we are also currently on a work-from-home scheme for all my other work engagements.
I am grateful there are still quite a number of projects coming in (oddly enough) despite the many we had to postpone earlier in the year. Maybe it’s because more enterprises are now trying to go tap into the digital realm.
Since I’ve just been at home, I’ve been able to read and paint more. I’ve had more time to explore some hobbies as well––both old and new. I was finally able to touch my stack of books that have been piling up over the past few years. Haha! I was also able to use this time to introduce myself to meditation––one of the things I find most helpful during these unprecedented times.
Right now, we’re not only in the middle of a pandemic, but social and political unrest, too. As an artist, you’re known for addressing these kinds of issues through your paintings.
I’ve never really been good at articulating what I mean to say (which is probably such an unfortunate time to possess this trait right now). So I just try my best to shed light on pressing issues in the way I think I can, through painting.
What inspired you to use your art to tackle these kinds of issues in the first place?
This recurring theme in most of my collections is because of a project I had done for one of my majors in Communication Arts under Direk Joey Reyes last 2 years ago. We were asked to come up with any kind of creative output that would tackle an issue we face today. I think I was reading a lot about consumerism at that time so that really played a big part in my thought process back then.
What drew you to the Détournement technique in your paintings?
When I was starting out with painting, I was really going for the hyper-realism style at first. This entailed a lengthier painting process. It would mean having to do multiple underpaintings and layers to achieve a photo-esque look to a piece.
But as I went on with painting in that style, I figured I really liked just leaving it at its early stages. Specifically the under-painting stage, wherein I’d just map out the colors and shades of it first, which explains the patch-like makeup of my pieces.
As for the approach on the Détournement technique, I’ve always been a fan of “re-mixing” not just in music but in art as well. I’ve always been drawn to a narrative of old and contemporary so a heavy impact would have to be that.
Are there any other styles you’re interested in as an artist?
Yes! I’m actually the biggest fan of paintings that are furthest from my style and medium. I really appreciate Bauhaus and Surrealism to be specific.
Since quarantine began, a lot of people’s work and lives have been halted, but you’ve been consistently releasing new things. How has quarantine affected your work and how you work?
Our line of work was actually very much affected. We had to call off a number of stuff we were actually working [on] for more than a year.
At CC:Concepts & UNKNWN, we had to postpone a music festival and a long line-up of film concerts. As for SYF, we had to postpone all collections, collaborations, and brand activations that were already in the works. I was actually even scheduled to march for my college graduation this month but it looks like we’re just going to receive our diplomas by our respective doorsteps via delivery.
Having to come to terms with the situation was extremely glum at first. But as time passed, I realized that these were all done for the best and that there are much more pressing issues such as what I was dealing with.
Painting has always helped me take some weight off my shoulders. And I just wanted my pieces to somehow ripple the same effect in one way or another to those who need it the most.
Waking up to new cases and worsening news everyday has definitely taken a toll on everyone. I guess I just wanted to help in the ways I can, no matter how limited they may be right now. This is actually the main driving force for a collection I did recently entitled “Pause” that ran through May 21-June 4, 2020. It was a virtual exhibit that I put up with the help of DF Art Agency to raise funds for daily wage workers around Metro Manila through the NGO “Tulong Para Sa Bayan.”
I wouldn’t say I’m as prolific as most artists but one thing is for sure, it’s that I’m painting more than I ever have. With so many disheartening things happening not only in our country but overseas as well, it’s nice having something like art to come back to.
Since you started your professional career three years ago, you’ve already held two solo exhibits—Consumed (2019) and Pause (2020). Congratulations on that achievement! What was it like going from a physical exhibit to a virtual one?
Wow, thank you so much. Hope you guys were able to “visit”. Haha!
Physical exhibits are definitely out of the question right now as they are classified as mass gatherings. Pause came about because of an initiative and because I was actually scheduled to stage a physical exhibit in the same time frame. Having said, I had all the materials ready already and most canvases were already started on
The most recent exhibit was made virtual out of our struggle to adapt to the times. Along with the said adaptation came the re-thinking of the whole purpose of showcasing the works, as well as the issues it wanted to address.
I’m not really the biggest fan of virtual experiences but I do have to admit, I found it so cool. It felt like I was in Ready Player One or something of the sort! What I also liked about it was that the works were able to reach a wider audience. Logistics & marketing-wise, it was definitely a challenge though. I was very blessed to have had a team to help me put it all up.
However, I’d still opt to exhibit my paintings in a physical gallery (granted that the world would have a combatting vaccine of course).
There’s just something so different being in a physical art experience. To me, it breaches beyond the artworks. It’s the people, it’s the conversations. It’s about the tactile sense of seeing and feeling.
I’m scheduled to have another solo show in the last quarter of this year so I’m very curious about how it would be executed by that time. Hopefully, the world would be at least halfway close to normal.
Do you have any favorite work/s that you’ve made under quarantine?
I do actually! It was one of my first few paintings for the series. It’s called “Prada di Tindera.”
Normally, I’d have models/friends as sitters for my paintings. But due to the rules of social distancing, we were prohibited to have that usual set-up. I instead asked our cook who has been with our family for over 40 years to be my muse for a painting. We had so much fun working together, it also made me really happy because she really liked how it came out. She’s like a second mom to us here, so it really meant a lot. And if I may say, she’s a total natural.
From an artist’s perspective, do you think this pandemic will change the way art is produced and consumed even when things go back to “normal”?
Absolutely! For both production and consumption, this epoch in our lives would definitely make a dent in the way we go about art. It’s going to be a double-edged sword but I’d want to focus more on the positive side of things.
For production, I hope this period provides inspiration for us all. It’s hard to be in the right headspace to create something especially with new issues popping out left and right so my wish is that we artists could all emerge from this.
As for consumption, I’m just not too sure on how the Philippine Art Market would fare out during these times. But either way, a big shift to digital purchases or experiences might occur as it would be the safest option for consumers now.
Moving forward though, I feel like it would be a gradual process of going back to how galleries would operate. The transition I’ve been seeing that’s taking place right now is the move from virtual exhibits to by-appointment viewings held at the physical spaces.
What is the first thing you’ll do when this is all over?
Hopefully, I’d get the chance to spend some time at the beach with my best friends. (I’ve been imagining this scenario for about 4 months now haha!)
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists or artists having a difficult time right now under quarantine?
Go at your own pace. Your worth is not measured by your productivity.
Take it day by day especially during these trying times.
Take breaks & take care. At a time where working remotely blurs the lines of work & life, it’s important to know and respect your limits both physically and mentally.
Photos by Martin Bautista