Raul Arellano’s ever-morphing island

Published November 8, 2021, 7:18 PM

by Repelente Terence Patrick T.

Raul Deodato Arellano’s “The Island” is a painting that grows on you. Initially, the work shows you its entirety: a landscape that presents a rock formation in front of a recursive lake, the azure sea at the horizon. A common impressionist subject. The triptych has a relatively balanced, geometrical composition. Near identical left and right panels, and then an upward explosion in the middle, which looks like a crest of a wave or a spew of volcanic eruption or an octopus’ tentacle. Or maybe a melting candle wax? A few moments later you begin to notice more things and ask similar questions. Like the naked figure sitting beside the lake. Or the limbs and feet carved into the oyster-like formation. Or that random breast stamped on the ground. Are those faces? Is the rock formation just a swarm of bodies welded together in a fluid state?

Raul Deodato Arellano

The painting progressively gets more ghostly and uncanny the more you stare at it. It moves gracefully and plays with your imagination. Like Paul Cézanne’s “Large Bathers,” Arellano’s work is an insurrection of details like it was rendered with uncontrolled fervor and unhinged intensity. This sense of spontaneity comes as no surprise. For Arellano, not planning is the plan when it comes to making art.

“Honestly, there really is no concept beforehand,” he said. “When I am not painting plein-air or a live subject, I paint from within. So whatever outcome my brush may be able to unleash, it only starts as soon as I put paint on my brush. Nothing is planned. It is all about the desire to paint and love for the medium. Reason and order will follow.”


“The Island” is part of Arellano’s recent solo exhibition, “Island,” at the Altro Mondo Creative Space gallery. “I was preparing for a show I will be doing with my cousin, when I received a message from the gallery that I am going to have a one-man show in October,” he recalled. “At first, I was hesitant because I only had less than a month to prepare, but then I thought it would be a good warm-up activity for my upcoming shows next year so I gave in to the little pressure.”

Like the triptych, which can be considered the centerpiece of the show, the other works possess a constant fluidity. Individually, each is worthy of careful inspection. Alpha, a standoff between two gigantic wooden figures, presents warm tones, which evoke confrontation and contradiction. On the contrary, “Submission of Man,” as the title suggests, gives a sense of yielding and capitulation as Arellano depicts a man bowing to the mountains or an entity that represents a higher being.


“Self-Portrait” and “Earthbeat” are somewhat similar as they perfectly exhibit the artist’s tendency to create a chaos of elements. In the former, Arellano conjures an impressionist Frankenstein monster, a hodgepodge of figures: legs, arms, a guitar, chicken feet. In the latter, he uses the same technique, but in the form of another marsh-like tropical landscape, in which the ground merges with the trees and the trees converge with the mountains, an ever-morphing ecology.

“I have painted outdoors for more than twenty years. You see, when this happens, your eyes can no longer tell the difference between what you see in front of you and what you put in your canvas,” he said. “They become one. The color will dictate itself and even if you are painting purely from imagination, the colors will still somehow resemble how it is done and how you see it when you are painting plein-air.”


Collectively, the paintings are woven together through their unique use of impressionist artistic language on top of the dreamlike pastel palette, slightly dominated by viridian tones. In terms of theme, Arellano’s fascination with indigenous society is evident with the inclusion of components like the Bulul and the concept of animism. Moreover, the use of sexual figures, as well as deities of food and abundance, signify an inclination to the primitive communal motif, especially the humanistic desire to satisfy primal urges and the community’s overall well-being.

“The Island’ ran from Oct. 2 to Oct. 24 at the Altro Mondo Creative Space in San Antonio in Makati City; altromondo.com.ph/exhibitions/island