ArtSpeak: Stephanie Frondoso on art and design

Published May 16, 2022, 2:55 PM

by Ramon E.S. Lerma

The artist shares her perspective

Ramon E.S. Lerma

Art and design are close cousins in the creative world, and it is always exciting to bring the design perspective when it comes to choosing and hanging art in your personal space. I am currently working with curator and artist Stephanie Frondoso, who has brought her art background in imagining a space filled with choice objects that would inspire and invite a deeper investigation of each piece’s history.

It is a sheer pleasure to delve into Stephanie’s intention for her installation, being not just a curator and art writer, but an artist as well. After graduating from the University of Asia and the Pacific where she earned her humanities degree, Stepahanie completed a curatorial course at Sotheby’s in New York, before exploring the history, symbolism and metier of jewelry at L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels Paris. Since then, Stephanie has worked with different galleries as an art writer and curator, and co-founded Spektacularis, a platform for experimental works in glass. During the pandemic, she expanded her practice to create alternative photographic works.

In an exclusive for Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Stephanie expounds on her art journey, how she mines her background in decorating her own space, and the idea behind her Gavel&Block auction setup.

On decorating her space

I don’t hire interior decorators when I fix my own space. I organize and decorate the way I want, considering my collection which mostly consists of works from living artists, like prints from Mars Bugaoan, Diokno Pasilan, objects from ceramic artists Hannah Pettyjohn, etc. The auction house is also a good source for buying art.

On her latest works

During the pandemic, I started to think about how to make art without having to leave the house. So I used materials from my garden to make prints using alternative photographic techniques, or camera-less techniques.

I experimented with Chlorophyll prints using leaves, Anthotypes using flowers, and Lumen prints where objects are set against photographic paper and exposed to the sun. Then, galleries started to invite me to show my works. I also did Anthotype and Chlorophyll printing workshops at Leslie de Chavez’ Project Space Pilipinas, in Lucban, Quezon. It became the public programing for Project Space Pilipinas. I think that these types of art should be in the public programing not just here, but all over the world. Because you just need your environment to create these types of art. You just need weeds, flowers, and the sun.

The pandemic and how it impacted the art world

Art is thriving, and even more so during the pandemic, to my surprise. I think artists and collectors were able to focus more, because there’s less distractions. So people were also able to educate themselves more in terms of art. They had time to visit galleries, watch videos, and read more. The art scene became more interesting in that way.

Selecting pieces for her Gavel&Block vignette

I created a little alcove as part of a living room or sitting area with artworks and objects that I imagine one would enjoy living with for many years. They are from different time periods, artists, mediums and genres, assembled to inspire, uplift and ignite curiosity. They are also accessible to a broader audience, from beginning collectors attempting to learn more about art and design, to seasoned connoisseurs who love surrounding themselves and filling their rooms with a variety of art forms.

The wall bound works include different types of prints, works on paper, a paddle and a map, while the furniture and objects are an eclectic mix, with highlights being a rare Ambassador sofa from the 1950s, an antique clock ingeniously converted into an accent piece and a long spout copper teapot. Each piece was selected to entice audiences to continually research and gain insights on art as part of a lifestyle.

Art highlights

At center is an abstract Zobel offset lithograph. Lithography is a method of printmaking where the matrix is the smooth surface of a stone (commonly limestone). The printmaker uses oil, water, ink and chemicals in a technical process of making the image. This process being “offset” means that the image is first transferred onto an intermediate surface (like a blanket), and then transferred onto paper; hence the image is transferred twice and is not a reverse image of the matrix, as with most printmaking techniques, but is an identical image as the etching. This piece is a unique entry point for collecting work from an important artist and patron of the arts, whose contributions to Philippine art history and culture are undeniable. Gazing at his work here, one would never tire of its mastery in line and movement and either feel energized with ideas or also restful with the minimalist, monochrome application.

The Ossorio piece is a printer’s proof, which is the preliminary approved print or prototype that is approved before the editions. It is thus deemed as having greater rarity. Filipino-American artist Alfonso Ossorio has been largely unknown amongst local collectors until relatively recently. Salcedo Private View was one of the first to feature his work at Art Fair Philippines several years ago, followed by a retrospective exhibition at the Ayala Museum in 2018. I first encountered his work in person at the Ayala Museum retrospective, and the following year viewed it on display at the Metropolitan Museum New York. Later that year, I also visited his mural “The Last Judgment” (sometimes referred to as “The Angry Christ”) in Negros Occidental. I mention examples of these visits because I think it is helpful for audiences to try to see plenty of art in order to hone tastes and interests, and once more curious about a particular artist, to see as much of that artist’s work when the opportunity arises.

Alcuaz worked with a variety of mediums: painting, sculpture, tapestries and ceramics. This delightful watercolor is a good representative of his signature fluidity, using soft blurred edges, bold lines and a composition of shapes to layer light forms and colors. Like most abstracts, one can see something new in this painting everyday.

Two years ago, I was able to acquire two Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi prints from Salcedo Auctions, which I have enjoyed looking at in my workspace throughout the pandemic. I was pleased to see another Tequi print on offer this year. The print displays her mastery of the color viscosity technique, using inks with different viscosities to allow the application of multiple colors in one print. Many of such were included at Tequi’s 2020 retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum Manila with 219 works on display. Those who were lucky enough to visit the retrospective would have seen the breadth of allegorical statements in communicating her stand on Philippine socio-political issues despite belonging to the diaspora since 1973. As one of the pioneers in Philippine printmaking, and the first woman to be named a CCP Thirteen Artist Awardee (1972), a prime sample of her work would be an important addition to anyone’s collection.

The little map was made in 1705 by Rene Augustin Constantin de Renneville. It is a scarce map that shows the galleon route through the San Bernardino Channel from the Pacific Ocean and its passage to Manila. The map is meticulously and finely copper engraved with handcolouring, a more difficult technique that was employed before the invention of printmaking inks. Its maker is a French writer, who for a while was imprisoned in the Bastille. He likely made this map in relation to his work on a collection of travels to serve the establishment and progress of the East India Company. Maps are curious artefacts because they record manual navigation using the tools they had at that time. I like their imperfections because they reflect the limitations of the era, yet they also display great effort in craftsmanship. I have acquired maps from Salcedo Auctions in the past, specifically for my nephew Liam who lives in England and loves all kinds of maps. There is much to learn in the field of cartography, which fascinates many enthusiasts. When I encountered the Renneville map, I felt spurred to find out more about it, and I think this is what makes maps very special—it provides clues about history that teases one to further investigate and enter older versions of the world.