On the art of the eerie

Bernard Alvin L. Lee (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2014 - 12:00am

(Bernard Alvin L. Lee is a fourth year student at the University of Asia and the Pacific [UA&P] where, for his visual arts class, he is tasked to write about a Filipino artist he finds interesting. He chose Igan D’Bayan. Here are Lee’s thoughts on Igan’s art.)

MANILA, Philippines - This particular artist is into ghosts, spirits and corpses — subjects that are out of the ordinary. Thus, his artworks tend to spook viewers. But it’s not mainly about the supernatural. (The artist even said that he doesn’t believe in ghosts and spirits.) Igan D’Bayan finds other things scarier aside from horror movies or tales of the unexpected. These are: the Khmer Rouge, the Spanish Inquisitors, and the evil that men do.  

Igan started drawing when he was five years old. Later, he attempted to write poetry and fiction in high school, but at the same time taking electives where he could seriously pursue drawing.

In college, he put art on the backburner for a while and pursued philosophy and literature. Through these courses, he hoped to discover deeper meanings of human experiences. That was his trip then. He reveals most of his understanding of literary and philosophical ideas through his artwork.

He claims that his art style is of the expressionist vein although with a modern twist. But the expressionism in Igan’s works shows a bit of rebellion. In one painting, Igan puts thorns around Jesus’ crucified body and on the cross itself. This probably means that his Jesus-on-the-cross concept has other meanings. Perhaps, his unconventional message is that religion could be both good and fanatical.

Another work shows a skeleton in a cage. It could symbolize that man can be trapped by his circumstances on earth. We endure poverty, violence, discrimination and the quagmire of it all. But man’s struggle also includes spiritual difficulties such as overcoming greed and envy. Despite education, culture, and religious orientation, man seems to find it hard to free himself from either or both physical and spiritual suffering. In fact when a man dies, he ends up trapped in a coffin.

Igan’s Joker painting and sculpture could mean that man must wear a mask of sorts. Man must incite fear to push away other people. However, this could be a cover-up for man’s emotional weakness. In most cases, the person who pushes away other people has insecurities and fears that he or she himself hides. Hence, this artwork reminds us not to be deceived by what we see.

What’s interesting about Igan’s work is his hybrid or fusion of different styles: Expressionist (the distortion, the elongation), Classical Medieval (reliance on religious pieces such as the cross) and Renaissance (interest in the human figure). He also uses metal, glass, paint, film and other materials to create interesting artworks.

According to Terry Barrett, modern and postmodern art have no boundaries and can be created in a variety of ways in terms of method and style. That is true with Igan D’Bayan, who continues to assert his uniquely dark personality as an artist.

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