Artists spark creativity amid crisis

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    Top line (from left): Contemporary artist and NSAC Alumna Leeroy New, and Art Curator Con Cabrera. Bottom line (from left): Festival Director of Fringe Manila and Creative Director of Pineapple Lab Andrei Pamintuan, and Street Artist, Illustrator and Painter Jappy Agoncillo.

    PILIPINAS Shell, in collaboration with multi-genre arts festival Fringe Manila, has launched Virtual Art Interact – a platform for renowned artists to share their insights on the sector and how to develop their skills. It features workshop demos and artist discussions designed to support young Filipino creative talents from the grassroots level.

    Sankie Simbulan, Pilipinas Shell country social performance and investment manager, said they want the National Students Art Competition to become a platform to support and empower the community, so that they may in turn uplift more Filipinos through art.

    Art and artists have been resilient through the crisis. With programs such as Virtual Art Interact, Simbulan said that Shell is able to amplify artists’ voices and give young artists a better chance to thrive, despite the difficult circumstances they are facing.

    “It’s been very difficult because we can’t go out,” said Manila-based street artist, painter and illustrator Jappy Agoncillo who is renowned for his distinct comic-book style using pop culture themes.

    Many of his most popular works can be found sprawled against buildings and urban structures around the National Capital Region. But while the city may be his canvas, the lockdown has challenged him to seek other platforms and sources of inspiration for his art.

    Agoncillo, who performed a live demonstration of acrylic art in Virtual Art Interact, added he is a street artist, “but doing street art is off the table right now.” He overcame this by shifting towards trying to help others.

    People have lost their livelihood and want to turn to art to create, express themselves, and even earn a little more. Agoncillo has been giving advice to younger, aspiring artists who are still figuring out how to begin their careers.

    With so many creative spaces shuttering, artists also need new platforms to showcase their work – and that is where NSAC and Virtual Art Interact come in.

    “We have this well of information and platforms through the internet. We can easily connect,” said curator and art director Con Cabrera who moderated the discussion. “It’s can be a very special time for artists.”

    Sculptor and former NSAC winner Leeroy New, pointed out that technology has been shattering the glass ceiling for artists especially during the lockdown where the art-starved public turn to the internet for solace, expression, and inspiration.

    “Now, everyone can share their art online and have access to a global audience,” he said.

    New, who participated in the program over fifteen years ago, has gone on to achieve awards and world-class recognition from the Asian Cultural Council, Singapore Biennale, and other prestigious organizations.

    He also mentioned the important role that art plays beyond demonstrating individual creativity, saying with this crisis, art as a practice has to expand, such that it is not just about creating artworks but also figuring out how to use that self-expression for community involvement. “It is also a matter of expanding our concepts of creativity with the times.”

    “Artists are the storytellers of the world, and our stories have the capacity to transform communities and society for the better by instilling progressive ideas into our work,” New concurred.

    Fringe Manila Festival director Andrei Pamintuan also emphasized that the artist’s role in society is to be of service in the community. “The NSAC is a good reminder for our young artists to not just hone their craft, but also think about how their art can change lives,” he said.

    The next leg of Shell Virtual Art Interact is set to happen on October 17 and will focus on the Mindanao region.