BY FIEL ESTRELLA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSEPH PASCUAL
The eldest in the third generation of a family of artists, painter Luis Santos didn’t find his chosen craft until after he had finished his education—he had taken up business management—and begun working in a different industry.
He had been dissatisfied, having tried his hand in graphic and web design and finding it lacking. “I wasn’t able to be where I wanted to be,” he recalls. Painting, on the other hand, “gave me a direction that I wanted to pursue. I appreciate that it allows me to be able to express my thoughts.” He adds: “I was lucky that I met the right people at just the right time.”
Despite having been exposed to and surrounded by painting all his life, he explains that to him personally, it’s all relatively new. “I can’t really explain it,” he says, “but it’s like an itch that you just have to scratch. Everything is exciting.”
He started only eight years ago, and has not had any formal training, describing his method of using a brush and canvas as “very traditional,” but he’s continuously exploring and constantly evolving. “Recently I’ve been painting using a silkscreen and I have been discovering new ways for me to paint.” His current efforts to evolve include seeking out residencies. “I want to be in a different environment and see what changes it would bring to my practice.”
His ongoing solo show, “(sounds fading, distant. sounds distant, muted),” follows two previous Silverlens shows, “Structures” and “Measuring Distance,” and picks up where they left off. The exhibit showcases the latest in a body of work that captures Santos’ preoccupation with representation and hyperrealism, and through it, he plays around with concepts of recognition and first impressions, juxtaposing the strange and the familiar through parallels both figurative and literal—reflective of process, material, and outcome.
According to Santos, the show’s relationship with its predecessors isn’t simply to take their thematic and aesthetic elements full-circle. There are meta workings as well, as this time around, it’s more self-referential, ruminating on the past shows instead of focusing on the materials. “I’m trying to work with the idea of progression in terms of time and space as a construct,” he says.
One of the more prominent materials in question are corrugated galvanized iron (G.I.) sheets typically used for roofing, one of which is on display at the exhibit opposite the painting that corresponds to it. Santos has been working with them for six years, and continues to find new ways to manipulate and present them.
The artist’s studio
Asked what it was that drew him to the iron sheets as material and image, he explains that they started out as a tribute of sorts to his late grandfather, the iconic painter Malang Santos, who had painted small huts known in the country as barung-barong, and Philippine conceptual art legend Roberto Chabet, who had made use of the sheets in his installations.
“Aside from its aesthetic quality, I am interested in using [the G.I. sheet] because of its ubiquity and how it is used to define space,” Santos says. “I then looked at other common materials that are used to arbitrarily define spaces, like borders, fences, TV screens, bodies of water, vast spaces.” “The idea evolved as my interests changed,” he adds. “I have always been fascinated with theoretical physics, and these shows are in a way about it or at least my limited understanding of it and how I relate or connect that into my experiences.” As such, the material is presented and represented as it is, but it is distorted by certain factors including gravity, time, light, and space.
Of the relationship between hyperrealism and distortion in his work, Santos shares that it’s driven by collective histories and memories, “the act of remembering and forgetting.”
“I’ve always been interested in systems or universalities and how they deteriorate,” he says. “How constructs distort our perception of what is real, and what reality means.”
“(sounds fading, distant. sounds distant, muted)” is open to the public until June 30, 2018, at Silverlens, located at 2263 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati.