Siargao Artiste in Residence: Art & heart in the island

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
Siargao Artiste in Residence: Art & heart in the island
Siargao island is an artist’s muse.
Siargao Artiste in Residence

The first evolved art form is nature itself. How art patterns are visible in leaves and flowers or in the foams of waves crashing on the shore or in the anatomy and dichotomy of the human race are manifestations of natural art. Nature inspires artists.

Visual artists Stefano Serreta from Italy and Juan Miguel Rodriguez Arnabal from Uruguay — both in the Philippines under the artist grant program of Siargao Artiste In Residence — recently exhibited their works at Talyer 15 Gallery inside Henry Hotel in Pasay City.

Evident in their artworks are the pristine beauty of the Philippines — its people, its islands.

Artwork by Stefano Serretta depicting the beauty of the Philippines.

Arnabal’s depiction of island life in Siargao, where the artists were housed and hosted, was throbbing with life. So alive that the coconut fronds in his canvases sway, stun and shimmer in their stillness with a gold leaf as the medium.

On the other hand, Serreta’s understanding of the Pinoy life and psyche was at once simple and elaborate with his use of pink and blue hues as he painted human art forms.

(From left) Italian visual artist Stefano Serretta, Siargao Artiste in Residence co-founder Alelee Andanar, Uruguayan painter Juan Manuel Rodriguez Arnabal and Siargao Artiste in Residence managing director Ian Giron.

All this the two artists thought of as they enjoyed their introspection in Siargao.

Truth be told: the natural allure of Siargao prompted couple Martin and Alelee Andanar to build a gallery last year on the island they named Siargao Artiste in Residence. The gallery is located in the surfing town of Santa Monica, the untouched northern part of the island.

Martin, now a news anchor at China Global Television Network, was the secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte. Alelee is into real estate and owner of Luxuri Manila.

“We chose Siargao because of the vibe that is conducive to artistry. We want artists to have a place in the island as the waters and people of Siargao inspire the artists to paint,” says Alelee, co-founder of Siargao Artiste in Residence.

The 108-sq.-m. art gallery of Siargao Artiste in Residence in Santa Monica, Siargao.

“This is our own contribution in promoting the beauty of the country. When we invite foreign artists to the island, we show them what a beautiful country we have, what beautiful souls the Filipinos have,” adds Alelee.

Inviting foreign visual artists is part of the mission-vision of the art hub. The gallery also doubles as an art exchange program for foreign artists to create their works in the island.

“The Siargao Artiste in Residence is also an artist exchange program that grants the opportunity for foreign artists to immerse themselves in Siargao island for a period of four to eight weeks. They stay in the island for that period where they can create art pieces with the island as their source of inspiration,” says Ian Giron, managing director of the gallery and its programs. Ian was part of the Philippine delegation sent by the government to the Venice Art Biennale in 2022 and 2024.

“Siargao has always had its own unexplainable charm. Which is why we believe it needs artists to capture and depict its beauty, quaintness, and dreaminess. Much of the artists’ works properly encapsulate what we all feel when we visit the island, especially Northern Siargao — and that is truly what makes the gallery and its programs truly special,” Ian says, adding that funding for the art programs comes from private donors.

Alelee says the artist program works two ways. “We invite foreign artists to Siargao for a grant and through a reciprocity program of Siargao Artiste in Residence, our local artists also get invited abroad.” Before the gallery was established last year, the people behind it had been actively participating in art exchange program since 2017.

Currently, Alelee and Ian say, the Siargao-based gallery is working with three major art centers in Europe and South America. These are Port Tonic Art Center in South of France; Centro Cultural de Ambulante, an art cooperative based in Lisbon, Portugal; and El Lobby.arte Artist Residency and Gallery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“By connecting Filipino artists to different art centers and residencies around the world, our hope is for them to exchange best practices, skills and, in effect, create a dialogue between Asia, Europe and South America through their works,” says Alelee.

As an accomplishment of Siargao Artiste in Residence, Ian proudly says, “Filipino contemporary artist Jigger Cruz was a grantee in 2017 at Port Tonic Art Center in South of France. Currently, Jigger is back at Port Tonic for a second residency together with Filipino contemporary artist Arvin Nogueras. They will be joined by Argentine artist Fabro Tranchida and a Moroccan artist for this season. In return, Port Tonic Art Center sent artists Stefano Serretta, Federico Tosi and Juan Manuel Rodriguez Arnabal to Siargao Artiste in Residence.”

“The grant from both sides includes free airfare, board and lodging, all art supplies, allowances and travels around the country for research and a gallery show at the end of the residency. In return, the art center keeps 50 percent of art production incurred during the residency. Foreign artists are chosen based on their project proposals and portfolio,” says Alelee.

The mission-vision of Siargao Artiste in Residence is to connect Filipino artists to different art centers, residencies and art cooperatives and foundations in Europe and Latin America. And in return, they will send international artists to Siargao to create a dialogue between cultures and best practices.

“At the end of the day, we want to highlight the spirit, the soul, the beauty of the Philippines through Siargao Artiste in Residence,” Alelee concludes.

Going back to nature is the art and heart of this endeavor. *

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