How our art is making an impact overseas

Filipino artworks featured in Hong Kong

At a glance

  • According to the Indigenous folk of the Cordilleras, the Binakol textile protects against malevolent spirits.

During Hong Kong Arts Month in March, two of the largest events held were the Art Basel and Art Central. I attended these events during a recent media trip sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Both act as venues for showcasing some of the best artists worldwide, Filipinos included. 

CONTINGENT SPHERES, Haegue Yang Art Basel Hong Kong, Encounters; WHITE LIES 2023, 500.0 x 300.0 (cm), Mixed Media, tapestry, Patricia Perez Eustaquio

Upon entry at Art Basel, guests are greeted with a massive art installation by Korean artist Haegue Yang entitled Contingent Spheres. Her work is a combination of three different pieces. All three were presented on flooring referencing the Filipino textile Binakol. According to the Indigenous folk of the Cordilleras, the Binakol textile protects against malevolent spirits. Yang’s work was just one of 16 large installations included in the “Encounters” exhibit curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor. 

LIFE AT SEA Joar Songcuya's paintings depict his life as a seafarer, THE EMANCIPATION OF MIMI, 121h x 121.92w cm, oil on canvas, 2023, Pow Martines and CARGO CULTS, 79.20h x 57.10w cm, pigmented inkjet print on Photo Rag Baryta, 2018, Stephanie Syjuco

Of those works, one was by Filipino artist Patricia Perez Eustaquio. Eustaquio’s White Lies certainly drew up a crowd due to the intricately designed digitally woven tapestry. Depicted on the tapestry is a 20th-century American colonial photograph of a native Filipino woman. The photograph was one of many images taken after the US purchased our country from Spain. Eustaquio reworked the image to balance the woman on a circus ball while wearing a Western-styled costume and being surrounded by American flags. White Lies (Filipino Boy on Graduation Day), also a tapestry work, was also on display at the Silverlens Gallery booth. This time the tapestry depicts a Filipino boy wearing traditional garments. Other Filipino artists highlighted by Silverlens Gallery were Pacita Abad, Nicole Coson, Stephanie Syjuco, and Carlos Villa. According to Silverlens co-director Rachel Rillo, the gallery has been participating in these Hong Kong art events for over a decade. 

For Art Central, only one Filipino artist was featured. Joar Songcuya is a self-taught painter who also works as a seafarer and marine engineer. For nearly a decade, he has traveled around the world aboard commercial ships. Having been inspired by the oceans surrounding him and his work environment, Songcuya’s art pieces depict Filipino seamen working on large ships and the ocean. In his ocean works, you may find yourself lost as you stare into the emptiness of their crashing waves.