The art of waiting
Anton Del Castillo believes that his art, although often rooted in personal events and people close to him, can be a way to express universal themes. For Anton, all art conveys a narrative. The stories shown in his works, however, are founded on visions. “The scenes that are depicted in my art often come from episodes that curiously show up in my dreams,” he says. “I am then urged to render them into permanence. Interestingly, these scenes mirror my own experiences and, as I eventually come to know, those of others as well.”
Like all of us, one of the major anxieties that plague Anton’s mind right now is COVID-19. Ironically, he says, the virus gave him more material for artistic expression. “As an artist who draws heavily from his own experiences and emotions, the global pandemic, with its maddening effect on our relationships and mental well-being, aggravated my worries and concerns, compelling me to create more,” he says. “But with heightened anxieties also came greater faith in the Lord.”
Indeed, one cannot help noticing the slow shift in the themes of Anton’s works. Hints of positivity and hope are almost evident in his more recent works, compared with his past ones, most of which revolved around matters like imperfection, struggle, conflict, and deceit. “With the crippling anguish and paranoia that it masterfully fosters, the pandemic has left me with no other choice but to trust in my faith,” he says.
This confession of faith and patient hope will aptly culminate in his upcoming show “Parousia: Waiting for the Arrival of the King,” which will be part of this year’s Art Fair Philippines. “It is safe to say that ‘Parousia’ is borne out of my faith and personal experiences throughout the pandemic,” he said. “Parousia,” which means “arrival” or “presence” in ancient Greek, is Anton’s attempt at seeking hope. “In Catholic belief, it particularly signals the coming of Jesus Christ, the climax of salvation history where we will all meet the Lord to be with Him always henceforth,” he says.
Apparent in the works that are part of the exhibition is the usage of imageries of waiting and of anticipation for someone or something that is unknown. “That is precisely what I have been feeling amid this global crisis that has frozen the world to a standstill for over a year now,” he says. “Everything, everyone is put on hold. And so, we wait, clinging to the seemingly mistaken delusion that these novel tribulations will pass.”
In the conceptual phase of the exhibition, Anton ponders on the uncertainty of this pandemic, that all of us is still unsure of what lies at the end of all of this, if it has an end. He confronts these doubts and heightened uncertainties through the works. Beyond that, Anton likens this “wait” to his anticipation of the god’s return. “I draw hope from the promise of His coming, clinging to a seemingly forsaken yet urgently necessary promise that the end of these tragedies will also come,” he says. “In days we have no one else but ourselves, when we want nothing else to do but curl up in our beds, I hope that the promise of the Lord’s coming becomes enough reason to stay afloat.” In other words, “Parousia” is a desire for better days and salvation.
The show explores the act of waiting, examining the various things we wait for and the different forms of how we wait. The figures in the works are depicted in different stances that suggest waiting, with some rendered as having their chin resting on the back of their hand, some investigating for answers, and some glancing forward in anticipation or unease. Other works display the grand responses and habits we do while waiting.
“These stories are not just mine,” he says. “I am sure waiting is something everyone approaches with familiarity. Whether it is for the pandemic to end, for a person, for an opportunity, or whatnot, waiting is something that has been experienced by all. It has taken on new meanings and forms.”
Outside of the change in theme, each of the works in “Parousia” is stamped with Anton’s artistic signature, with his classic gas mask and gold leaf persisting as central elements. “Gas masks reinforce the notions of concealment, narcissism, and deceit that my works frequently touch upon,” he says.
Meanwhile, Anton’s strategic and masterful use of gold leaf references religious iconography. It also alludes to humanity’s obsession with gold, its manmade value and precious luster, which, according to him, “helped religion communicate more passionately with its followers through its golden, visual symbols.” Aside from that, Anton shares that his incorporation of gold leaf has long enticed many followers of his art career, both for authentic and superficial reasons.
In a way, he says, these two constant elements—the gas mask and the gold leaf material—support each other. Of course, it would not be an Anton Del Castillo artwork if it was not done through the meticulous and masterful estofado technique, which he has faithfully practiced throughout his glittery artistic career.
Parousia: Waiting for the Arrival of the King by Anton Del Castillo, presented by Galerie Roberto, will be on exhibit at the Art Fair Philippines from May 6 to 15, 2021