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Liv Vinluan's imagined history

"The Islander Chronicles" by Liv Vinluan opens tonight at Finale Art File.

MANILA, Philippines - I’ve always viewed them as little splices of imagined history,” says artist Liv Vinluan about “The Islander Chronicles”— a series of paintings she began back in 2011 — a time when she was just starting to teach herself how to use watercolors. Six years later, Vinluan revisits the series once again, with an exhibition opening tonight at Finale Art File: “The Islander Chronicles” is finally here. Executed in a Spanish-colonial watercolor style, she goes even further, examining the time and the tides that culminated in a perplexing history.

YSTYLE: Tell us about your new show?

LIV VINLUAN: The first nine works I ever did to start “The Island Chronicles” series were something I kept for myself, both for posterity and sentimentality’s sake. Sometimes, when I go to the warehouse (Finale Art File), I make sure to check them out — the original nine are about six years old now, and as an artist it’s always such an experience to look at an older artwork, and actually feel proud. Each “Islander” piece is marked by hand in graphite with a number, which you’ll notice when you look at the lower part of each work. Long ago I promised myself to make a hundred pieces, and right now I believe I’ve done about 30 or 35 in six years — obviously, I have a long way to go! I will take my time though, as “Islander” is a project I work on sporadically, on and off, and when I first started I already expected that it’d take me a decade to finish it. Or maybe even more. 

What was your inspiration behind this?

I’ve always cited 19th century Spanish-colonial watercolor paintings. Damian Domingo and Justiniano Asuncion made these spectacular, intricate little paintings that I found very striking. These days I am not solely compelled by history, but also by the medium, too. Watercolor, ink, gouache — those things are so unforgiving, almost demanding. I like that the material requires so much discipline from me. Most of the time we are charmed by the precision, but I love that these mediums reveal so many of a painter’s mistakes, too. When you work with watercolor and ink you are forced to live with your mistakes and your errors, and I found that idea deeply poetic. 

How do you think you have grown since your last exhibition?

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Maybe “grown” in a way that I’ve just kept moving forward. Life, art, everything — just forward, constantly. With every succeeding show I’ve been doing my best to be defiant of what I know, and what I have and what I am. It has also been about mustering enough courage so that I may be able to question everything, especially myself, and what I do. It has actually been frightening to realize that we grow most when we question our very own selves. It’s almost painful, but I guess that’s how you know you’re evolving and flourishing.

What’s next for Liv Vinluan?

Survive this thing they call “wedding planning” and get married! 

 

 

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