Melvin Guirhem: Tailoring life’s experiences on canvas

Published May 11, 2021, 3:02 PM

by Tara Yap

Multi-awarded artist Melvin Guirhem from Iloilo has been weaving personal stories into his fabric art for years, yet his works speak of the experiences of others.

Melvin Guirhem

It is only fitting that Melvin’s sixth solo exhibition is a continuum of his Philippine Art Awards (PAA) 2020 grand prize win for sewing together personal experiences that everyday Filipinos can relate to.

In “Tábas” (a Hiligaynon word for cutting clothes by a tailor), Melvin explores the varied colors, textures, structures, and shapes in a collection of fabric and thread works currently exhibited at J Studio HQ in Las Piñas City.

“I can connect and compare this to life—just like the fabric and thread. Our life has happy memories, challenges, obstacles, pains, sufferings, struggles, and even contentment,” Melvin says.

“My art depicts the shape and form of a crown, a ship, a house, an airplane, a diamond, and a cross. It configures tons of definite structure telling us that we are in reality mode and that we need to accept what life is set for us,” Melvin points out.

The works in “Tábas” may even be an extension of his PAA winning piece “Failed Reconciliation” that depicted Melvin’s conflict among his parents and siblings in adulthood. It is evident in the piece “Puluy-an” (Hiligaynon word for house). But instead of the pain and burden felt in “Failed Reconciliation,” “Puluy-an brings outs the energy, strength, and faith drawn from having built his own family.

“A house will be a home wherein there is family that spreads love and care for each other,” Melvin says.

Puluy-an” is also accompanied by “Shared Diadem,” a portrait of Melvin and his wife and their shared responsibility as parents.

There’s also the diamond-shaped “Manggad” (Hiligaynon word for wealth), a portrait of Melvin’s daughter whom he considers as a treasure that needs to be kept and loved.

In “Crucifixion,” Melvin depicts faith in the form of burden and redemption.

In “Voyagers,” Melvin depicts a journey for a better life. It can resemble the life of an overseas Filipino who had to work abroad or someone who had to move to another city.

While it connotes a voyage for financial stability, it can also connote sadness and broken relationships among families or partners as they are divided by the seas or the oceans.

Tábas” is encapsulated in “Pursuits,” which takes a shape of an airplane. It symbolizes not just a journey to success or contentment, but the struggles of overcoming the different facets of life.

“When we try to find the beauty in life, we also have to find ourselves and what we want. We also have to find our faith or our spiritual being. We can then eventually find the wealth and power in our life,” Melvin tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.

“All these shapes and forms reflect my inner me. We cannot find and cannot appreciate the beauty in everything until it is cut and natabas na (tailor-fitted) to its desired shape and structure,” Melvin adds.

Aside from the solo exhibitions, Melvin is separately also part of J Studio HQ’s “Espacio” group exhibition for the ongoing Art Fair Philippines 2021.

The group show also features the works of Anna Bautista, Arnica Acantilado, AR Manalo, Arvi Fetalvero, Bunnee Gamboa-Santos, Demi Padua, Efren Carpio, Eski + Victoria, Hilario Barrozo, Ian Inoy, Ioannis Sicuya, JC Intal, Jojo Ramirez, Mark Lester Espina, Mieckel Borero, Naomi Mendoza, Norlie Meimban, Obet Tiaño, Renee Avila, and Richard Buxani.