A penny for your art

Ralph Mendoza (The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - I was sent here by my mom as punishment,” admits 17-year-old Filipino artist Arion “Penny” Pennington, who grew up in San Francisco before moving to Manila to study and do his art.  “I had a lot of problems at the time,” adds the thin capped guy in black, “I was always mad at everything. I wasn’t going to school. I would be away weeks at a time. Drinking, partying, loitering, and smoking cigarettes with friends. You know, typical delinquent kid sh*t. It was fun but that gets to you. I was self-destructive and my mom had to do something about me. But hey, from negative to positive, right?”

To positive it did go, as we noticed the heart in his art at the recent Dr. Martens exhibit in Makati, where his collage was drawn live. An anything-goes array of markers and pens were at his disposal as he meshed the crazy and hazy right before our eyes. This week, we talk to Penny about his roots and where’s headed.

Congrats on the exhibit. How’d it feel doing what you did up there, man?

I’m not gonna sugar coat it or anything. It felt f*cking great, dude. I’m just happy I got the chance to show people my art and get feedback.

How would you describe the art scene in SF compared to Manila?

Well, the SF bay area is like so crazy and free spirited. The walls. The clothes. The streets. The hills. The People. It’s all art. The people and the city is so vibrant and in your face in some places. I’ve only been in Manila for seven months or so, so I haven’t seen everything there is to see, but Manila seems so much more subtle. I find art here in the most unlikely places. Art will be staring you in the face but you don’t realize its brilliance ‘til later. Like f*ck have you seen the designs on jeepneys? Do you understand how cool that sh*t is? Corporate logos of Nike and Adidas next to anime characters and religious imagery. Or hand-painted street signs. I love how gritty and homemade it is here.

Your art, on the other hand, looks like a dream. Can I assume you are inspired by the REM stage?

Yeah, man. (laughs) I love lucid dreaming. Third eye type of sh*t. Exploring the mind and the beyond. I just love the raw ideas and images you brain thinks up in its most natural state without outside influences. Maybe some phrase I heard in my dream will inspire me. For example I had a dream last night. I was terrified and I woke up telling myself: “Remember the Bee Gees, a wad of cash, and a light machine gun.” Like I find that shit hilarious.

Can you break down your approach to creating your pieces?

There really isn’t a process. It’s usually just improvised. I just grab something to draw with and something to draw on. I like to have books to draw inspiration from and some music to jam to. I really like to focus when I’m drawing so I would be drawing non-stop for hours. I will take whatever materials I can get. That’s really how I’ve always been—scavenging for crappy supplies.

Why do you think it’s empowering to create?

You feel like God. (laughs) And you know how people get a cheap thrill from breaking and burning things? I get the same feeling from making stuff. It feels like a crime I shouldn’t be allowed to do. It feels dirty but it feels good. But breaking and burning sh*t is fun, too.

Was it always about art when you think about it?

I’ve always dreamed big. Art was important to me but it was just a part of the bigger picture. If I can change something or actually contribute to world in a big way then I’ll be happy. I want to do a lot of things. I don’t want to limit myself to just one thing. I want to try writing, photography, poetry, directing, acting, music, and fashion. And I have dreams of activism and being a revolutionary. (laughs) Big dreams, man. Big dreams.

Some people say drugs are a force in an artist’s life. What’s your stand on that?

Only a basic ass civilian would say something like that. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m sober or not I’m still going to do wavy, trippy ass sh*t. I don’t need drugs. I just happen to do drugs. And it’s definitely affected my art and my life. But driving force? Nah, man. I don’t need drugs. I am drugs.

What’s the Penny master plan this year and beyond?

I just want to create and experiment. And I just want more chances to show off what I can do as an artist. I feel like going crazy sometimes because I’m so impatient. I’m not waiting for opportunity anymore. I’m just taking it now. But very soon I plan on making T-shirts and hopefully move on to making more clothes. Maybe a gallery if someone gives me the chance. I’m also going to have a lot of dope collaborations with some friends of mine here in Manila so look out for that. And of course, I have more art to show to the world. Just give me time. Feel free to make misconceptions about my art now. I’ll break them later. I know what I want and I know how I want to do it. I hope I don’t sound overconfident or anything but that’s how I learned where I’m from. The youth are taking over so watch out.

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Follow Penny on Twitter @ TheRadiantMakk.


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