An art mover’s quest for creative identity

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Text and photos by DARYL Z. LASAFIN

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Sunday, April  30, 2017

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Brasileño and “The Commuters” (right), his biggest and, by far, most-favorite artwork. PHOTO COURTESY OF K.G. BRASILEÑO

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SOLITUDE breeds productivity. At least that’s how it works for the visual artist Kristoffer George Brasileño, who prefers being immersed in his studio or just hanging out at home — activities that may easily intertwine, spatially speaking — to, say, watching Lav Diaz’s eight-hour big-screen stunner “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery) on a Black Saturday.

It’s quite incredible hearing this from someone like Brasileño, 26, of Janiuay, Iloilo, who owns a leadership spot in the local art community and a teaching position at one of Western Visayas’ prestigious universities, and who has been “adventurous” since he was a kid.

The most memorable adventures are solitary, though. “I’m the type who would just stroll on my own, straying from the pack. I don’t usually go with the crowd,” he tells me as we sit at what may be considered a small wooden conference table, surrounded by frames of his work and tools, recalling a Boy Scout camping day when he tried to make friends with locals, his colleagues and Scout masters completely clueless until they realized he was gone. “They thought I got lost in the woods,” he says with a quiet giggle, the kind you do when you recall silly things you did as a 10-year-old.

Pulling him off the stereotype is easy; he’s well-groomed, quiet but not aloof, laid-back and yet showing just enough stuff up his sleeve without an air of arrogance or baseless eccentricity. But what makes this loner — one of the winners of the 1st Iloilo Art Prize in 2015 — stand out is his being one of the prime movers of local art and a shaper of the minds of young artists, all while putting his trademark dreamlike imaginings and strangers’ images, using oil, on canvass.

Brasileño teaches storyboarding and color theory at Central Philippine University. Teaching gives him a sense of routine every day, and a chance to know more and keep him “in the loop,” but he most especially considers the profession rewarding when dealing with students who are seriously learning the craft. He tells me about one who quit a bachelor’s course in nursing and another who started out in fine arts, both now pursuing Digital Media.


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Connecting with young people and appreciating the effort of those pursuing a career in the arts come easy for him. After all, he was once like them. After completing his bachelor’s degree in nursing at University of Iloilo, he took fine arts at University of San Agustin. He worked at Museo Iloilo as workshop instructor before eventually taking a teaching job at CPU.

Aside from teaching, he is also leading the Iloilo Visual Artists Collective as chairman. He says the organization started in 2014 with a “crazy” and “ambitious” idea to gather more than 2,000 pieces of 5×7 artworks from more than 300 amateur and professional, young and old artists and put them up on floor-to-ceiling walls at Cinematheque Iloilo on Iznart–Solis streets, Iloilo City — a successful exhibition dubbed “Blend 09.”

It was when they realized that Iloilo, and Panay Island, was teeming with talented artists that Brasileño, Cinematheque’s Daniella Caro and Mark Anthony Larida, and Edgar Ferraris decided to create IVAC, which is slowly becoming a household name in removing the widely perceived “exclusivity” of art exhibitions and art in general to give every aspiring artist equal opportunity to shine.

As IVAC chairman, Brasileño was able to get local artists together in a group that works for better appreciation of genuine creativity. With support from local governments and the art community and enthusiasts, and the warm reception from the public, he hopes IVAC one day becomes a leader in professional arts management and, probably, have its own building.

Embarking on ambitious work seems to be the way to go for Brasileño — “Kris” to his family, friends and close acquaintances — who is “The Artist” in the classroom back in his school days, with his limitless imagination and random but visually unique experiences manifested in his pieces.


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“Bereft of any sense of reality” is how Brasileño describes some of his drawings that reflect his imagination.

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He is mastering oil on canvass, something he was introduced to at a young age of 10 (unlike others who get hold of oil only by the time they take fine arts or even later), thanks to his aunts who send him oil-based paint. He believes the styles and techniques he learned about the medium are enough to be shared with any student or enthusiast.

Brasileño admits to being limited to 2D mediums for now as he tries to “explore the possibilities,” experimenting on his approach every time he faces a blank canvass: his every frame is essentially a new one, in terms not only of subject but also of style. He describes himself as a “tonal painter”; he comfortably works his way through light and dark, and has a healthy contention with direct color painting.

Experimenting is, he claims, a deliberate effort aimed at equipping himself with answers for the curious, but it is more of a part of his quest for his identity as an artist. “I’m getting small hints now,” he says in Hiligaynon.

He recalls putting up a show, inspired by his travels, at Museo Iloilo as part of his college thesis where the search for that elusive creative identity reached a point of no return. “My colleagues noticed, I myself noticed, that there are obvious distinctions between my works. There may be superficial similarities, but every canvass is essentially a new work.” What are the hints, then? “My techniques are those that others have not used. My subjects are geographically near me. The impact on the community seems to have been projected. And I tend to portray Western-looking people.”

Drawing dreamlike visual images seems to be a conscious effort, too, with a bit of a desire to stand out. But the works — neatly kept in plastic file folders — showed me that Kris just never lost that adventurous, albeit solitarily, child in him. “My works with dreamlike settings are inspired by my childhood drawings. Surreal subjects,” he says. “Typically, here in Iloilo, we see social realism: poverty, drugs, depression, crimes. So, I thought, why don’t I focus on fantasy, something completely bereft of any sense of reality? You know, just being playful, exploring the possibilities of creativity, the imagination.”


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Brasileño says he is more comfortable at home, in his studio, than anywhere else.

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Curiously, his most-favorite among his artworks, “The Commuters,” is based on reality. About a year ago, in his hometown, a jeepney filled with passengers arrived. It was high noon, and Brasileño was struck by the movement before him: “townspeople, mostly on top of the jeepney, clad in clothing of various hues, disembarking from the vehicle, with fruits and goats and other cargo in tow, some with mud on their feet.” He took a snapshot. Soon, the photograph landed on canvass. “At that time, it seems ambitious to make a huge painting, but I did it.” That painting was part of his thesis exhibit at Museo Iloilo.

Art and art appreciation in Iloilo remain a hard sell, but Brasileño pins his hopes on the promise shown by turnouts at galleries and exhibits and the growing curiosity on how the creatives keep their struggling industry afloat, thanks partly to media exposure.

For him, the amount of attention Ilonggo artists get from the locals is enough for now. “It’s enough that they get encouraged to head to the galleries; that art destinations are getting more and more popular; that people start looking beneath the surface, asking what the work is about, the story behind it, how it was done. For now, it’s enough that we create conversations. The more we do so, the more we get them engaged.”/PN


A version of this article appeared on page B12 of Panay News’ April 7, 2016 issue with the title, Kristoffer George Brasileño: An art mover’s quest for creative identity,” as one of the personality profiles in the Ilonggo Standouts segment of the paper’s 35th Anniversary Edition.



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