In my paintings, I investigate the figure in an atmospheric and moody space. Themes of metamorphosis, transformation, isolation, mythical quest, and the search for identity and belonging, both as a Filipino-American woman who emigrated as a teenager and an adoptee, are what I am driven to find a visual language for.
The figures who are often seen in motion or doing mundane activities are seen inhabiting imagined and ambiguous spaces which represents the “in-between space.” It is the space I navigate as an immigrant woman and adoptee. The experiences of dislocation, rapid assimilation, facing differing values and conventions, and intergenerational conflicts brought upon by my immigrant experience and bicultural upbringing, coupled with the complexity of the “late-discovery adoptee” experience where identity crisis, feelings of strangeness, alienation, loss and genealogical discontinuity have inspired the imagery of the anonymous figures who are suspended and isolated in space. The atmosphere serves as an internal and psychological landscape, tension-filled at times, where the process of rupture and change takes place. It relates to the conflicted space between two cultures and two families, and the quest to find reconciliation and balance.
In the “Pathways” series, by utilizing the figures in motion, I seek to create open-ended narratives, at times through diptychs or triptychs, with repetition of imagery that works in progression within a story, explored in different color palettes and atmosphere. In some works, such as the “Specimen” and “Divers” paintings, metamorphosis is explored through the simultaneous fragmentation, mutation and regeneration of the body. The inner changes manifest through the form, and taking nonhuman qualities. The female protagonists are in the act of exploring unfamiliar territories. Swimming, diving, running and walking are solitary activities the figures perform which allows them to tap into an authentic ‘self’ that is free from imposed roles and expectations. It is a construction of my own origin story and my point of view as the subject.
The “Dancers” series which is my current and ongoing project, explores dance as a transformative act. The gesture of the figures takes on expressive and emotional qualities where the posture is tensed and the body is contorted at times. It is a celebration of life and chaos. I began utilizing unstretched canvas, adding to the movement and floating quality of being in this “in-between” space. Furthermore, the physical edge of the composition becomes an actual barrier the figures are seeking to break free from.
In the “Strangers” series, the figures who are caught unawares are explored through various scenes of the everyday life. A sense of uncertainty and alienation are probed upon through the recurrent bleak mood which is most palpable during mundane activities.
I draw upon the history, syntax and techniques of oil painting, and influenced by a wide range of painters, from Venetian Renaissance to old master and contemporary figurative painters. Cinema, story board, film stills and found online imagery, such as from Youtube and social media are referred to and appropriated. With multiple layers of oil paint, depth of color, nuanced tones, and brush strokes, I build the atmosphere and the figures which I find during the painting process. Through suggestive narratives, I want to leave room for the viewer to enter into the painting and make his/her own interpretations.