Cereal killers

Published September 22, 2022, 8:44 AM

by John Legaspi

Artist Van Tuico explores the relationship between art and food in his latest collection

As the saying goes, “We eat first with our eyes.” No matter how culinary geniuses explain the flavor and taste of a dish, diners must be visually pleased first before taking their first spoonful. This judgment on food does not happen only in the fine dining scene. One example of this is the sweet cereal children love munching on for breakfast. It comes with that addicting sugary taste and a prize in every box. But before people, or kids, decide to put them in their carts, they are first lured by the witty labels and colorful illustrations on the box. 

Van Tuico

In his recent exhibit, Filipino visual artist Van Tuico explores the idea of the inside out by using cereal boxes as the canvas for his art. Dubbed “Cereal Killers,” the showcase highlights the idea of momentary or artificial happiness and asks viewers the question: What’s more important, what’s inside or the facade?

“In this assemblage, I think of combining art and food. Preparing a meal is also a form of art as well, combining different ingredients and coming up with a delicious and sumptuous meal,” says Van. “What’s more important the inside or the outside? That is the question thrown out to the viewer. In real life, what matters most? Sometimes, outward ingredients are merely superficial. Like in social media, not all you see is great or true… Same with ingredients. Sometimes we need to read the label for us to know what’s good for us.  Advertising is conditioning our minds to have it even if we don’t need it.”

“Mishy Meshy No.1” and “Bon ala Crete No.1”
“Toothy Play No.5” and “Mishy Meshy No.4”

Van has been living the life of an artist for over 15 years. He started out young when he was introduced by his cousin to drawing and, later, by a friend to abstract painting. Since then, he has been producing art using acrylic and industrial materials as his signature, allowing him to showcase his works in esteemed galleries in the Philippines and abroad. 

Just like many artists, Van sources his inspiration from different places. With “Cereal Killers,” the idea came after seeing a baby shop with big cereal boxes. Instead of making cover art for the boxes, he wants to give the viewers a peek at what’s inside them, a playful accumulation of toys, game boards, repurposed dental items, and other industrial materials. 

“Plink Plank No.5” and “Plink Plank No.6”
“Plink Plank No.3” and “Toothy Play No.6”

“Cereal Killers” is made up of four different sets. First is the Toothy Play, for which he got help from his former classmates in dentistry. Mishy Meshy features repurposed materials and gravel. In Bon ala Crete, the pieces are made of cement and measuring tools. In the Plinx Planx, old toys are front and center. His humor and creativity continue to the nutritional labels on the boxes. He even incorporated his own picture in one of his works to depict a missing child.

Through the exhibit, he aims “to step into where one is afraid, understanding what seems to be dark and showing it in a positive way to encourage and uplift the spirit.” In the future, people can expect him to produce more assemblages in way even more fun and interesting than his works in “Cereal Killers.”

“Art is diverse,” says Van. “It needs skill and experience, careful observance, and study. It is slow in motion and deep in knowledge.” 

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