When Dreams Bear Fruit: John Paul Duray presents ‘You Are/Pagkatao’
- 1 October 2020
You may not even be aware of itー but surrealism has woven itself into the very fabric of modern life. It no longer exists as a mere idea or concept found within the pages of books. After all, we live in a so-called ‘new normal’ – that can only be described as surreal.
The word has become such a fixed part of our lives that Merriam Webster made ‘surreal’ the word of the year in 2016. Without realizing it, this word has become a catch-all term used to describe the strange, the abstract, the dream-like, and essentially, all things out of the ordinary.
Surreal perfectly describes the sculptures in ‘You Are/Pagkatao,’ contemporary artist John Paul ‘JP’ Duray’s first Salcedo Private View exhibition, where he creates vivid and enigmatic depictions of the Filipino everyman. Interestingly, he replaces each sculpture’s ‘head’ with produce – mangos, coconuts, cashew nuts, dragonfruits – to make striking visual metaphors.
Surrealism in Art
Surrealism paved the way for some of the most radical and revolutionary ideas of the 20th century. Although its origin mainly traces back to literature, surrealism undoubtedly flourished within the realm of visual art. This movement ushered in a new wave of art styles that intentionally moved further and further away from what was considered to be classic, traditional, and even logical.
It must be said that surrealism is in no way a form of escapismー it’s quite the opposite. Surrealists purposefully played with visual symbolism to create the recognizable absurd. Many artists from this post-war period felt as if the world they lived in was going topsy-turvy, and the only way they could fully express the profound strangeness was through art. Influential artists like Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, and Rene Magritte dedicated their life’s work to the pursuit of the peculiar in plain sight.
For many surrealists, the ultimate goal was to liberate the subconscious mind through their art. As such, fantastical dreamscapes became the subject matter of many paintings created in this post-war era.
Today, the influence of surrealism is so deeply entrenched in our everyday lives. These influences may seem subtle, but they are far-reaching. In fact, Duray didn’t knowingly set out to become a surrealist by any meansーin fact, he himself demurs from calling himself oneー and yet, one can easily draw parallels between his resin sculptures and the works of the surrealists throughout history. This is how strong a foothold surrealism still has: “I have a real connection to the sculptures since they have been the best medium for me to express myself,” JP simply explains when asked about why he makes his sculptures.
The Surrealist Dream Turned Reality
Duray always returns to his dream of ‘Banana Man’ – the very first sculpture he debuted in 2013. He often narrates this particular dream to illustrate the exact moment he decided to become a full-time artist. He shares that this dream helped push away the self-doubt he had, and allowed him to break through the fear of judgment for creating sculptures that, to some, may be downright confusing. It’s the same gut-reaction viewers have when seeing a surrealist artwork for the first time. Banana Man or “Bono” as the sculpture is sometimes titled is also featured in ‘You Are/Pagkatao,” but this time the figure is literally and figuratively “Renewed.”
During the artist’s tour at his exhibition opening last 10 October, it became clear that this version of Banana Man is symbolic of his own journey. Each sculpture he has molded is an ode to his past and his personal experiences. This is why every sculpture in ‘You Are/Pagkatao’ has a well-thought-out backstory that’s essential to how Duray communicates his worldview.
Creating sculptures is as much reflexive as it is reflective for the artist. He creates art that draws similarities from decades of history but still remains entirely his own.
“I would be in the middle of working on a piece and a childhood memory would suddenly resurface or friends would spontaneously remind me of moments we’ve shared together during childhood after seeing my pieces,” Duray shares. These small moments of remembrance point to his past, his experiences, and to how his art is finally coming full circle.
Get to know the surrealist creations of John Paul Duray at the ‘Headspace’ exhibition as part of Art Fair Philippines 2021. ‘Headspace: Recent Works by Ricky Ambagan, Stephanie Honrado, and John Paul Duray’, runs from Thursday, 6 May to Saturday, 15 May 2021 at the Salcedo Auctions showroom located in NEX Tower, Ayala Avenue. To view the online catalogue and the virtual gallery, simply click here.