Vibrant histories and captivating cultures captured
This year has been an exceptionally challenging period for communities around the world. As the nation continues to grapple with an ongoing pandemic, raging typhoons, and other calamities, industries have been pushed to adapt or to close their doors — and the art world is no exemption.
I’m pretty sure we all are battling different battles and they are all valid. I, for one, has been struggling to squeeze my creative juices given our current situation. This pandemic season has brought a different type of struggle in different aspects but it also allowed me to explore more about myself. I started to do things I thought I’d never do. I established my YouTube channel. I learned and relearned things. I uncovered skills I thought I never had. I found inspiration from all sorts of things and platforms, this included Shell’s Virtual Art Interact.
Every year, Shell gathers different artists from all over the Philippines to participate in their annual Art Interact. This time, the Art Interact was made digital or virtual. The Shell Virtual Art Interact happened last November 7. Visayan artists emerged into the spotlight to tell their own unique stories of hope, courage and redemption.
In line with Shell’s 53rd National Student Art Competition (NSAC), this virtual art interact was the third of a series of virtual art workshops. Breaking away from the conventional art symposia which had been put on hold by the lockdowns, the Virtual Art Interact explores the various communities of artists from diverse Philippine regions, empowering them to narrate their struggles and victories through visual storytelling.
Shell did not only featured artists from the Visayas. Luzon had the spotlight on October 3, while Mindanao followed on October 17.
The Visayas-leg Virtual Art Interact was hosted by Fringe Manila’s Creative Director Andrei Paminutan. It was not just an educational session, it was also fun and exciting as they featured a live sketching demonstration by artists and students.
Sankie Simbulan, Country Social Performance and Investment Manager of Pilipinas Shell, explained the reason for this journey. She said, “It is important for us to expand outside the local art periphery. Virtual Art Interact was a chance for us to show people that there is so much more to the Philippine creative scene by featuring various artists across the country.”
As the longest-running student art competition in the Philippines, the NSAC has been cultivating the next generation of Filipino artists, curators, and collectors. By engaging these creatives, it supports and empowers the community to uplift more people through their creative gifts.
Visayan art has birthed prolific artists such as Cebuano painter Martino Abellana, Boholano mixed media artist Henri Cainglet, and Negrense abstract expressionist artist Alfonso Ossorio, among others. However, despite the exhibits that have made their way in Luzon, there is still much to be discovered as many of these artists still have to reach the radar of a wider audience.
“Growing up, we didn’t have much access to art references or local libraries that carry art books. I had to learn and take inspiration from my communities and our history,” said Negros Occidental-based Ginoe, who was one of the featured artists. Ginoe is a visual artist from Silay. Aside from arts, he is also a programming director and community manager at the House of Frida, a contemporary art gallery in Bacolod that aims to promote budding artists from the city.
Though pristine beaches and delectable cuisine may be the first things to come to mind when mentioning Negros or Silay, it is actually considered the seat of arts, culture, and ecotourism in the island region. Ginoe also described Silay being a very historic town with so many ancestral houses. I have been to some of these houses and they feature pieces from across the world —be it China, Europe, or Japan. Negros is indeed an inspiring place for artists as it gives you not just a taste of “early globalization” but there is also nature to keep you relaxed and calm.
I have to admire the vision of NSAC and the Virtual Art interact. At a time when the pandemic keeps people at home and limits movement, art is the underlying thread that holds communities together.
Bayani Galera, a renowned installation artist and an NSAC alumnus with roots in Bohol, shared, “There are a lot of struggles and stories born out of this pandemic, and creatives have been expressing these feelings through art. [Maraming paghihirap na nagaganap at mga bagong storya ngayong pandemic, at kinekwento ito ng mga artists]”
Despite the consequences brought about by COVID-19, there is another silver lining to this period. Galera also pointed out how the pandemic broke down the walls of galleries and widened their audience. The possibilities are limitless now that art is made virtual. Art comes in many forms and a lot people have come to appreciate art more — whether it’s music, paintings, or theater.
Simbulan affirmed the role of art in these trying times: “There is no other sector that can better inspire and articulate this optimism than artists, and Pilipinas Shell will continue to nurture them so that they may spark the ideas the people need for a brighter future. “
The Virtual Art Interact was a very inspiring event. At first , I got really curious as to how they’ll keep the viewers interested virtually since it’s a whole different experience when you can’t see the artworks physically. But the Virtual Art Interact made so much sense once I learned about its vision and the stories of the artists. This platform actually creates bridges from artist to artist, allowing them to grow in learning and in reach.
At present, the NSAC has received 1,300 entries, and the official awards ceremony is set to take place on November 27. For more information, keep posted on Shell Philippines’ social media accounts.