24 Philippine Artists Shaping Local Contemporary Art

Thanks to the advent of social media, art in the Philippines is now no longer confined to the dry galleries of yesteryears. Instead, you can take a look at some of the best contemporary art in the Philippines by simply opening an app on your phone, or by hopping over to your nearest art fair. Philippine arts and culture are more accessible now than ever, and there’s never been a more exciting time to be an art enthusiast in this country.

The public has long had a fascination with artistic works, and you can see that art is now moving beyond the standard museum fare. In the Philippine art history timeline, no other era has had as much variety, both in medium and in the artists themselves, as this one. Whether you look at visual art, video art, performance art, or any other style in the Philippines, you’ll more likely than not find a Filipino artist making waves. To familiarize yourself with the modern art scene in the country, here’s a list of Philippine artists and their works below.

Nona Garcia

Nona Garcia is perhaps one of the best-known artists in the Philippine art scene at the moment. Born in 1978 in Manila, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of the Philippines. Based primarily in Baguio, her work has been exhibited in countless galleries both local and abroad. She won the Grand Prize in the Philip Morris ASEAN Art Award (2000), and is also a recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artists Award (2003).

Among her solo shows are False Apparitions (Singapore, 2012), Before the Sea (Manila, 2012), Unearth (Berlin, 2015), and Before the Sky (Manila, 2016). Nona Garcia is known for employing the use of stark realism to bring into question what the true meaning of representation is. Her use of photorealism centers everyday objects, cultural artifacts, or people, inviting the viewers to explore the environmental, sociopolitical, and personal histories of her subjects. Although famous for her paintings, she also employs the use of paper cutouts, x-rays, and lightboxes in her works.

Her attention to detail and incredible skill are unlike any other, making her a favorite of collectors, art enthusiasts, and laypeople alike.

Andres Barrioquinto

Andres Barrioquinto’s multi-awarded work is both striking and unforgettable, and his iconic and surreal painting style has made him successful in the local and international art scenes. A graduate of the University of Santo Tomas fine Arts program, Barrioquinto has been fondly called the Dark Man of Philippine Art due to his use of the macabre in many of his works. He has participated in shows both in the country and abroad, including Singapore and Taipei. In addition to this, he also had a recent major showcase of portraits at the National Museum in November.

Barrioquinto’s work is notable for its use of juxtaposition and scale. His portraits are famously a mix of the monochrome and the technicolor. With his subjects in black and white framed by an explosion of color, his paintings assault the senses and leave viewers reeling. While the mainstream perspective on art is that it must be beautiful, Barrioquinto challenges old perspectives and brings you up close and personal with the strange and imperfect. One of the CCP’s Thirteen Artists of 2003, Andres Barrioquinto’s works have also pulled in huge numbers at auctions in the Philippines and abroad. His painting Skulls and Butterflies pulled in HKD 620,000 at an auction, almost 15 times its asking price.

You can follow Andres Barrioquinto on his Instagram.

Leeroy New

When it comes to the history of Philippine arts and culture, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more distinctive style across a variety of mediums than Leeroy New’s. A native of General Santos City, New graduated from the Philippine High School for the Arts and the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. His work has garnered him a number of accolades and awards, including the 2005 Metrobank Art Awards, the 2009 Ateneo Art Awards, a nomination for the 2011 Signature Art Prize in Singapore, the 2012 CCP 13 Artists Award, and the 2014 Metrobank Foundation Award.

Leeroy New has employed a variety of mediums for his artwork, including production design, public art, product design, and wearable art. However, he’s perhaps best known for his iconic sculptures, which blend together a variety of shapes, colors, and forms to challenge the viewer. New’s lifelong fascination with monsters has led him to create pieces that are out of this world, making him one of the most prominent names in the Philippine sculpture and visual arts scenes. His work has also been featured in television shows such as Bagani (2018).

You can follow Leeroy New on his Instagram.

Nikki Luna

One of the most prominent female artists in Philippine arts circles today, Nikki Luna’s work brings together advocacy and art. Luna is a graduate of the University of the Philippines’ Fine Arts program, focusing on visual art. She also received a Chevening Award, allowing her to take a masters in Art and Education at the University of London in the UK. Her work has been exhibited in the CCP, Vargas Museum, and Lopez Memorial Museum, among others. In addition, she has also been featured in the Aichi Triennale, Singapore Biennale, Beijing Binnale, and Le Festival International des textiles Extra Ordinaires.

Luna’s work is notable for highlighting issues of women, including the issues of rape, sexual harassment, domestic workers, and migrant workers. She authored the book I Love My Body (2018), highlighting body positivity and awareness. She also recently completed a solo exhibition at the 1335 Mabini Gallery called This is how to be a woman of the world. Besides gallery work, Luna also employs her art in her activism. She has conducted various art therapy workshops in conflict zones in the Philippines, and uses her work to speak out against social issues like extrajudicial killings, misogyny, and rape culture.

You can follow Nikki Luna on her Instagram.

Rodel Tapaya

Rodel Tapaya is one of the top names in Philippine painting and visual art, and his work has garnered him critical acclaim both in the country and abroad. Born in 1980 in Montalban, Rizal, Tapaya first broke out into the scene when he won the Nokia Art Awards in 2001. This enabled him to take drawing and painting courses in prestigious institutions such as the Parsons School of Design in New York, USA, and the University of Helsinki in Finland. Additionally, Tapaya won the 2011 Signature Art Prize, was named one of CCP’s 13 Artists of 2012, and has been shortlisted several times for the Ateneo Art Awards, among others.

Tapaya’s first solo show outside the country was in 2008 and was entitled Rodel Tapaya: Folkgotten. This marked a shift in subject matter and medium, and Tapaya began to explore the themes of Philippine mythology and folktales for which he’s known today. Rodel Tapaya’s artworks and paintings are notable for their mix of Filipino folk culture and history, which he uses to offer commentary on contemporary social issues. His complex compositions and use of vivid colors and patterns have made his work a favorite of collectors and art enthusiasts.

Ernest Concepcion

Ernest Concepcion is well known for his highly complex and experimental paintings, which play with texture and color to create images that arrest the viewer’s eyes. Born in 1977, he graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He has participated in a number of art residences in New York, where he stayed for several years. Concepcion has exhibited in galleries both in the Philippines and in the United States, including solo exhibitions and group shows. He has also received the CCP’s 13 Artists of 2015 award, among others.

Concepcion is notable for his use of color and texture in his artworks. His paintings are abstracted reflections on Philippine history, social issues, and the human experience. By experimenting with composition, form, color, and textures, Concepcion’s works challenge the viewers’ preconceptions of what is or isn’t possible in art. Concepcion’s pieces are set apart by his use of different techniques, styles, and media in order to put together images that are disjointed and unified at the same time. He currently splits his time between Manila and Brooklyn.

You can follow Ernest Concepcion on his Instagram.

Annie Cabigting

Annie Cabigting is one of this generation of artists’ technical masters, and her work is well-known both for its adherence to real life form, and for its ability to challenge the viewer. She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Major in Painting in 1994, and has since been exhibited in dozens of galleries. She has over a dozen solo exhibitions, including ones in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. She also won the Ateneo Art Awards in 2005, among others, and her work was also included in the Prague Biennale.

Cabigting is perhaps most known for her ability to force her viewers to question ideas of authorship, reproduction, and point of view. Her recent show, Museum Watching, featured photorealistic paintings of people observing famous artworks. This playfulness in exploring the dynamic between subject and viewer has been present throughout her career. In addition to original work, Cabigting has also made reproductions of pieces by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and local artists. Her ability to play around with the act of observation has made her a favorite of collectors and laypeople alike.

You can follow Annie Cabigting on her Instagram.

Dex Fernandez

Dex Fernandez is a rising name among young artists in the Philippines, and it’s immediately evident why. Perhaps best known for his cartoonish, many-legged subject “Garapata,” Fernandez’s work is playful and street-smart, bringing a modern sensibility to many of Manila’s galleries. He studied Fine Art and Advertising at the Technological University of the Philippines before working as a graphic designer. He’s had solo exhibitions in the Philippines and the United States, as well as group exhibitions in France, Singapore, the United States, and the Philippines.

Fernandez’s work makes use of the urban landscape as a canvas, bringing art out of staid white galleries and into the daily lives of commuters. His Garapata stickers are a well-known sight around Manila and even abroad. Besides his illustration, he’s also worked in mixed media, photomanipulation, mural painting, and other styles. Fernandez’s pieces like to mix the mundane in with the surreal, making each of his artworks an instant visual playground for the viewer. Although he is currently based in Caloocan City, you can find his works, and Garapata, in metropolises all over the world.

You can follow Dex Fernandez on his Instagram.

Oscar Villamiel

Oscar Villamiel is a familiar figure in the Philippine art world, and his visceral, multi-media installations are both instantly recognizable and unforgettable. Born in 1953 and a graduate of the Fine Arts Program of University of the East, he worked as a set designer and entrepreneur for several decades. During this period, he founded the graphic t-shirt brand Artwork in 2002. His first exhibition was a group exhibition of UE alumni at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and he’s exhibited in a number of galleries and countries since.

Villamiel’s work is well-known for its use of salvaging, with the artist using found materials or old, recycled parts to create entirely new works. His 2014 installation art about the Philippines, Mga Damong Ligaw, employed the use of over 10,000 excised carabao horns that flowed from the gallery walls onto the floor. Instead of focusing on prized objects, his art brings to the foreground discarded junk and cast-off, mundane items. By doing this, he highlights the stark beauty that can often be found in these discarded pieces.

Geraldine Javier

Geraldine Javier is a Philippine visual artist whose work foregrounds the tension between dynamic contrasts. Born in 1970, she initially began her career training to be a nurse before turning to the arts. Javier rose into the spotlight when she received the CCP’s 13 Artists Award in 2003. She first began exhibiting her work internationally in 2004, and has been featured in dozens of galleries both in the Philippines and abroad.

Javier has cited Roberto Chabet as one of her top influences, and she herself takes a similar cerebral approach to her artwork. Her work emphasizes complexity, both of subject matter and form. In addition to iconography from her Roman Catholic upbringing, she also touches on the concepts of death, emotional violence, relationships, and social tensions. Rather than touching on the social realism and political commentary of her predecessors, Javier instead paints subjects that are highly personal and specific. Thus, she invites the viewers of her artwork to look at the internal rather the external, making her a favorite of galleries and collectors alike.

Ronald Ventura

Ronald Ventura has been hailed as one of the most distinctive and unique artistic voices of his generation. Born in 1973 and educated at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, he’s been multi-awarded since his student days. As an undergraduate, he won the longest-running student art competition sponsored by Shell Corporation in 1990. His first two solo shows were in 2000, and he has since been exhibited in the Philippines, Asia, and in Europe and the United States. Among his many awards are the 13 Artists Award of 2003 by the CCP, and the Ateneo Art Award in 2005.

Ronald Ventura’s artworks are known for combining a variety of different media, and he explores new themes, materials, and concepts in his work. Although skilled in different media, including photography, sculptures, and installations, he’s particularly known for his work surrounding the human form. By layering usually separate styles— such as graffiti, cartoons, and photorealism— he highlights the multiple and sometimes conflicting identities that make up the Philippines. Ronald Ventura’s paintings explore dynamics and contrasts, and each piece is a unique dialogue between viewer and subject.

You can follow Ronald Ventura on his Instagram.

Gary-Ross Pastrana

Gary-Ross Pastrana’s distinctive, conceptual oeuvres makes him a stand-out in a country rich with artistic talent. He received his bachelor’s degree in painting from the University of the Philippines’ College of Fine Arts, where he was awarded the Dominador Castañeda Award for Best Thesis. Subsequently, he was granted residences in Japan and Bangkok. He received the CCP’s 13 Artists Award in 2006, and has since been exhibited in shows both local and abroad. He is also one of the co-founders of the Future Prospects Art Space in Cubao, Philippines.

Pastrana’s work is known for combining concepts with context in subtle, poetic ways. In addition to sculpture, his work has also employed the use of folded and coiled photographs, found pictures from the internet woven together, and even his own shirt tied to a flag pole. In one exhibit in 2018, Pastrana turned to the “forgotten” objects in the house, highlighting them and inviting viewers to explore their often ignored histories. His simple yet dynamic approach to the everyday turns the mundane into something deeply emotional, adding a complexity to even the most deceptively simple of pieces.

Benedicto Cabrera

Benedicto Cabrera, more popularly known as BenCab, has been hailed as one of the most iconic artists of his generation. Awarded the National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts (Painting) Award in 2006, he is arguably one of the best-selling artists in the country, with the BenCab museum in Baguio City dedicated to his works. He studied in the University of the Philippines before exploring a career in art circles in London. Subsequently, he began to build a name for himself that led to countless exhibitions and shows in dozens of countries across the world.

Benedicto Cabrera’s artworks are notable for his mastery of a variety of different media, including printmaking, painting, photography, and draftsmanship. In particular, he is known for his series of works centering around his muse “Sabel,” inspired by a scavenger woman whom he photographed and sketched in 1965. Following the same vein, Benedicto Cabrera’s paintings are primarily figurative, focusing on the female subject, and occasionally men, wrapped in swirling fabrics. His subjects are often dressed in Filipiniana, highlighting the context of Filipino women in society.

Agnes Arellano

Perhaps one of the greatest Philippine sculptors of her generation, Agnes Arellano’s work demands the viewer’s full attention. Before delving into art, Arellano first went down a more science-oriented track, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and units in a Master of Arts in the same field. She finally took a Major in Sculpture from the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines, kickstarting what would be decades of success and renown. She has participated in several exhibitions across the globe, and her work is in the permanent collections of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, the Singapore Art Museum, and the APEC Sculpture Park in Busan, South Korea.

Arellano’s sculptures are distinctive not only for their mastery of the female form, but for their harrowing, sometimes grotesque, and always unforgettable subject matter. Much of her career has been shaped by the tragic death of her family in a fire in 1981, and many of her works commemorate this event. In particular, her multimedia memorial event Fire and Death – A Labyrinth of Ritual Art was a unique installation of memorabilia from their family home. Arellano is known for her focus on the female body using a variety of different sculptural materials, including casts of her own body. She calls her sculptures “inscapes,” where she invites the viewers to walk in and explore the core of their meaning.

You can view Agnes Arellano’s work on her website.

Kiko Escora

Kiko Escora, also known as Manila Animal, is a prolific, chameleon-like artist whose work changes with every exhibition. Born in 1970, his fascination with art began as a child, when his father introduced him to the color wheel and taught him to match each color with a song. Awarded the prestigious 13 Artists Award by the CCP in 2003, he has been exhibited numerous times, both in solo and group shows in the Philippines and in countries such as Indonesia and Spain. He is a favorite of collectors, and his pieces have sold for up to Php 1.5 million at auctions.

Kiko Escora’s work is known for the negotiation between the themes of intimacy and violence. His portraits, often foregrounding the subjects in stark lighting, invite a level of scrutiny on the part of the viewer that feels both familiar and invasive all at once. His subjects often have a particularly unnerving energy, with expressions and attitudes that turn the viewer from an impartial observer to an almost voyeur. This bald-facedness allows that forces the viewer from the passive into the active have made his work deceptively simple yet haunting.

You can follow Kiko Escora on his Instagram.

Yasmin Sison-Ching

Yasmin Sison-Ching is a Filipina visual artist whose work lingers with you long after you’ve turned away. Born in 1972 in Cavite, she took up a degree in Humanities and Fine Arts and graduated from the University of the Philippines, later taking a second degree in Painting from 1994-1997 and a Masters in Art Education in 2001. Her work Bear fetched the highest price at the Borobudur auction in Singapore in 2008, and she has been exhibited in Malaysia, Italy, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

Sison-Ching’s early work centered on abstract expressionism. Her gestural paintings included bright splashes of color and expressionist figures that lacked both form and identity. She then moved on to representational imagery, distinctive for her unflinching portrayal of her subjects. In particular, her series on children in all their moods showed her skill at drawing out the emotions of her subjects. This perceptiveness and connection with viewers have made her a standout in the Philippine art scene, and a favorite among collectors.

You can follow Yasmin Sison-Ching on her Instagram.

Neil Pasilan

Neil Pasilan is a self-taught, multi-media artist from Bacolod. Born in 1971 and brother to fellow artist Diokno Pasilan, he displayed creativity at an early age. In his youth, he modeled figures in clay before moving on to other forms and media. He has been in several group exhibitions, including 2010’s Buang in Makati City Alay in Quezon City, and 2011 in Taguig City, Philippines. His solo exhibitions have been at various galleries in the Philippines, including Wes Gallery, Art Informal Gallery, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Pasilan’s work is known for its use of multiple layers and media, utilizing these different strata to expose or sometimes mask different forms and subjects. He has described himself as being most at ease when he is being true to himself as an artist. Subsequently, many of his works include family members and other personal relationships. Pasilan’s work is distinctive for its hazy yet emotion-filled approach to form, creating emotion through abstraction where the viewer would initially assume there was none to be found.

You can follow Neil Pasilan on his Instagram.

Kawayan de Guia

Kawayan de Guia is a growing name within the Philippine art world, and with good reason. The son of filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and German artist Katrin de Guia, he was mentored by BenCab and Santiago Bose in his early years. In 2011, he helmed the Ax(iS) Art Project to promote the local artist community in Baguio City and the rest of the Cordilleras. He has held numerous solo exhibitions in the Philippines and abroad, and was a guest curator in 2013 for the Singapore Biennale. Besides the Philippines, his work has been exhibited in Australia, Japan, China, and Germany.

De Guia’s work is notable for his seemingly disjointed juxtapositions of different images and forms. His collages play with concepts that are often difficult to pair, such as religion and consumerism, in collages that play with both shape and color. By placing these outwardly disparate concepts together, he invites the viewer to construct their own meaning of their relationships. The chaotic landscapes of his artworks also invite the viewer to explore feelings of discontent and disarticulation, and leave them with lingering feelings of restlessness long after they’ve left.

Mark Salvatus

Mark Salvatus is an intermedia artist who has been slowly but surely rising in prominence in the Philippine art scene. Born in 1980 and educated at the University of Santo Tomas College of Fine Arts & Design, he won the Ateneo Art Awards in 2010, and was named as one of the CCP’s 13 Artists of 2012. In subsequent years, he has won residency grants and fellowships to Sweden, Japan, and the Netherlands. He has exhibited his work in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States, among others.

Mark Salvatus calls his artworks “Salvage Projects,” and he is preoccupied with the idea of movements and transitions from one place or state of being to another. His work discusses urbanization and the socioeconomic structure that surrounds it, especially in Metro Manila. This urbanization and landscape is both foreground and background for Salvatus’ pieces, manifesting through familiar objects and the everyday. With his artworks spanning a range of media and sometimes inviting the participation of the public itself, Salvatus  has proven himself an artist of the new age.

You can follow Mark Salvatus on his Instagram.

Patricia Perez Eustaquio

Patricia Perez Eustaquio has been hailed as one of the foremost artists of her generation. Born in 1977, she received the 13 Artists Award from the CCP in 2010, and has been awarded several prestigious residencies. Among these residencies are Art Omi in New York, and Stitching Id11 in Amsterdam. She has been exhibited in dozens of galleries, and her work has awed audiences in Switzerland, Singapore, Paris, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines, among others. In 2016, she was commissioned by the Palais de Tokyo in France, and joined the Singapore Biennale in the same year.

Eustaquio’s work is concerned with the idea of vanity, focusing on materials and structures that are carefully created and staged. Much of her work involves the materials of craft, including fabric, leather, lace, ceramic, and upholstery— either handmade or industrial. Hailed by critics as a multifaceted talent, Eustaquio is able to invite viewers to interrogate both the artwork and the process by which the artwork is constructed. Detritus is framed within the structures of craft and fashion, creating a dynamic that begs reflection and discussion.

You can follow Patricia Perez Eustaquio on her Instagram.

Martha Atienza

Martha Atienza was born to a Filipino father and Dutch mother, and this shuttling between two cultures has been at the forefront of her creative work. She finished a bachelor’s degree in Mixed Media and Media Art at the Aki Academy of Visual Arts and Design in the Netherlands. Despite her young age, her prodigious skill is readily apparent, and she’s received accolade after accolade in her decade of work. Among these are the CCP’s 2015 13 Artists Award, the New Media Fund from the NCCA, the 2012 Ateneo Art Awards, and residencies in Singapore, Australia, the United States, the UK, and the Philippines.

Martha Atienza’s work is primarily known for being expressed through video installation, which has been exhibited in various galleries across the globe. Using the concept of a “stranger” to guide her hand, her work toes the line between imagination and understanding. Atienza takes an almost sociological approach to her artwork, exploring different contradictions and subjects with an almost clinical eye. However, this perceived detachment does not let the viewer forget who is behind the camera, turning the experience into a kind of voyeurism of the voyeur.

You can view Martha Atienza’s work on her website.

Hannah Pettyjohn

As the daughter of Filipino ceramicisists Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn, it’s no wonder that Hannah Pettyjohn grew up to pursue a career in the arts. Born in 1983 and now based in Dallas in the United States, Pettyjohn graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting. Her work has been exhibited in the Philippines, Taiwan, the United States, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and is included in various private collections across Southeast Asia.

Taking inspiration from her parents’ work and her own experiences as a Filipino-American, Pettyjohn’s work seems to focus on the meeting and discussion between two worlds. Her paintings are often accompanied by sculptural works, and fragments of memory and autobiographical tidbits make up much of her artwork. Her palettes are muted, emphasizing a feeling of nostalgia and transience. With themes of impermanence, loneliness, anxiety, and aimlessness, her work speaks to a new generation of individuals who feel untethered to their own histories and societies.

Pope Bacay

A native of Oriental Mindoro, Pope Bacay is quickly rising to become one of the most well-known young artists in the country. Having graduated from the Studio Arts program of the University of the Philippines in only 2016, he’s quickly begun to make waves in the local art scene in the Philippines. He had his first exhibition in 2016 entitled (t)here, and has had several group and solo shows in the few short years since. Bacay also recently completed a two-month art residency at the ABungalow Residency Project in Negros Occidental.

Bacay’s work draws on the sense of place, capturing scenes from his life in his hometown of Roxas. Framing the everyday and familiar within architectural structures, he emphasizes the role of these structures in capturing and maintaining our memories. The visual geography on his canvases is both foreign and familiar all at once, with windowpanes or traditional-style houses a well-known sight to viewers. His masterful grasp of melancholy and nostalgia definitely makes him a voice to look out for.

You can follow Pope Bacay on his Instagram.

David Medalla

David Medalla is one of the greats of Philippine contemporary art, and any list would be remiss not to include him. Born in Manila in 1942, he was admitted to Columbia University in New York at the young age of 14 upon the recommendation of American poet Mark van Doren. In the late 1950s he returned to Manila and began his art career under the wing of several new patrons. In the 1960s, he moved to the United Kingdom and co-founded the Signals Gallery, which presented kinetic art by international artists. He also founded the London Biennale in 1998, and has won numerous awards for his work.

It’s hard to put together a life more storied than David Medalla’s. As one of the foremost artists in kinetic art and sculpture in the world, Medalla’s influence on Philippine contemporary art is undeniable. He has experimented with a variety of forms and materials, never once shying away from the challenge to viewers and observers. He creates artwork that allows all the body’s senses to engage with it, once even creating a piece that would release scent pellets of his then-boyfriend’s smell when he undressed after coming home from work. His creativity, eloquence, and genius are undeniable, and luckily for Philippine art he still has more to give.

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