Salcedo Stories

Contemporary Sculptures: The Chimeras of the Art World

Contemporary Sculptures: The Chimeras of the Art World

  • 2 October 2020

The chimera, in literary tradition, is defined as something ‘made up of parts of things that are very different from each other.’ Simply put, it is a hybrid creature, typically part human and part something elseー a description we can also apply to the sculptures of many contemporary artists.

The essence of contemporary sculpture is best encapsulated in the feeling it generates in the viewer. Oftentimes, it leaves one feeling bewildered, fascinated, compelled, and maybe even confused. It’s these instinctive reactions that beg the question: why and how exactly do these sculptures make us feel such strong emotions?

Through the work of contemporary artists Ronald Ventura, Alfredo Esquillo Jr., Elmer Borlongan, and John Paul Duray, we attempt to provide an answer. Their work draws you in precisely because they take a subject so familiarー in this case, the human bodyー and distort it to present a reality that can’t be expressed outright. The familiar is recast into something strange and almost unrecognizable at first glance. These contemporary sculptures lure us in and invite us to venture beyond our initial impressions.

Keep reading to understand how each artist makes a statement through their manipulation and amalgamation of the human form— enveloping the viewer in a sense of familiarity, all while presenting something entirely new and unnervingly peculiar.

Ronald Ventura

Contemporary Sculptures

RONALD VENTURA, Watching the Watchmen (Dog), 2012, Fiberglass and resin ⅖. Sold at the Important Philippine Art auction, The Well-Appointed Life, September 2020.

The award-winning artist Ronald Ventura has become known for the subliminal social commentary that he incorporates into his works. Watching the Watchmen (Dog) is a prime example.

In this sculpture, he fuses the indigenous Bu’lul figure with plastic matrices of popular consumer goods— effectively taking a strong image from our past and recasting it by using industrial materials from our present. In doing so, he holds up a mirror to the state of Philippine society today. Ventura offers no explanations, leaving us wanting to know more.

Alfredo Esquillo Jr.

ALFREDO ESQUILLO JR., Megaphomaniacs 04, 2015, Fiberglass reinforced resin, oil, and acrylic with speakers and amplifiers. Sold at the Gavel&Block ‘emporium’ auction, August 2019.

What a powerful statement this sculpture makesー take a quick moment to appreciate the intricate details and symbolic imagery that Esquillo weaves into his work!

This modern-day chimera refuses to be boxed into a corner. Megaphomaniacs 04 challenges the viewer as it boldly presents new ideas all while re-evaluating aesthetical norms. There’s no one way to take it all inー this work of art demands the viewer’s attention and interaction. It literally reveals a new side at every angle. True to its name, this sculpture is indeed a working megaphone! Who would ever have thought that sculpting an ear standing on a hand could get us to think about all the noise and ‘talk’ that fills our daily lives?

Elmer Borlongan

ELMER BORLONGAN, Harisonik, 2013, Resin edition

Several iterations of Harisonik have been created since its inception in 2013, but the figure’s face and its torso, which is replaced by a speaker, has remained unchanged. Borlongan’s original art toy series has long resonated with many art collectors and enthusiasts alike. The allure of Harisonik is found in its edgy representation of the Filipino everyman as well as in the fun, witty way it presents people’s undying love for music.

John Paul Duray

One of the sculptures John Paul Duray will be exhibiting as part of his You Are/Pagkatao solo show from 10 October to 7 November at NEX Tower

John Paul Duray takes inspiration from local produce such as mangoes, bananas, and coconuts to create the distinctive heads of his sculptures. Like Borlongan, he creates vivid depictions of the everyman, but through a much more seasonal— not to mention delectable—visual metaphor.

Duray’s works are an amalgamation of personal experiences and deeply rooted Filipino customs, interweaving these to create personal narratives for his sculptures. Come to think of it— who hasn’t compared a kind friend or acquaintance to a sweet, ripe mango? Or associated the life-giving traits of buko to a selfless person? These relatable backstories add depth and personality to his art, drawing viewers in and engaging them in the perennial question: underneath all the layers that are part and parcel of modern life, do we really know who we are?

These artists’ works allow for new and surprising insights to be drawn— exhibiting the very essence of contemporary art at its core and reminding us of how bold, out-of-the-box thinking encourages us to re-examine some of life’s everyday realities