Filipina-German artist in Bangkok digs deep into her Pinoy roots
Nico Marco (Contributor) (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2013 - 2:47pm

MANILA, Philippines - The launch of latest works by Bangkok-based Filipina-German artist Melanie Gritzka del Villar could not have happened at the most poignant time.

The opening gala showcase, held at an art gallery overlooking Bangkok’s iconic Chao Phraya River, (unintentionally) coincided with Metro Manila going through the wreaking havoc of typhoon Maring.

Though Bangkok-based for several years now, Melanie’s latest exhibit named “Traces,” brings a stronger emphasis to her Filipino roots.

The focal item used in this collection is almost unique to the Philippines: driftwood - wooden pieces that are usually found astray in local seashores after being washed away by monsoon storms and typhoons.

The idea of using stray driftwood (and some leftover materials from broken boats) first came to the artist while on holiday in Boracay around 2001. At the time, Melanie found herself in deep creative exchanges with another artist, Bacolod-based Perry Argel.

Perhaps the use of driftwood had rung an emotional connection with Melanie. Something about the poetic movement of floating driftwood ran deep into a childhood of mixed parentage and multiple-city upbringing? Only the artist would know for sure.

Over long walks on the beach, she began collecting driftwood and eventually used them as base material for collaged images cut out from local newspapers.

The result is an affecting depiction of the local way of life. Melanie’s work serves as fragments of time: those distinctly Filipino moments that celebrate our zest for life despite struggles, tenacity over poverty and roaring joy even with bleak times ahead.

In a packed enthusiastic crowd of locals and expats, Melanie- strikingly diminutive in that beautiful Filipina way- explained that her intention was to create a poetic journey that could hopefully trigger appreciation for traditions and history, and belief in the pursuit of dreams.

Judging from the crowd’s murmurs, exchanges and continuous Instagram-ready photo taking, the artist has successfully kept patrons engaged and interested in her story.

I cannot speak for the handful of Filipinos in attendance, but Melanie’s “Traces” arrested me with a tinge of childhood nostalgia and a shot of that Proud Pinoy moment only great artists and storytellers are capable of delivering.

“Traces” exhibit concluded last month with some of Melanie’s work already auctioned. For more about Melanie Gritzka del Villar and her other art pieces, visit the artist’s website at

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