Creating Art in the New Normal
Artists in three cities share how the pandemic changed their way of working
The FIG Commune team got an exclusive interview from three established artists based in different cities. They share about their experience during this pandemic and what drives them to create art amidst the challenges of the new normal.
Left to Right: Aze Ong, Ged Merino and Monica Delgado
Aze Ong, a Manila-based artist, who uses crochet as a medium for her art and is also a performance artist. As a child, she grew up surrounded by textiles and threads since her mom had a garments business. She learned crochet when she studied at Assumption Antipolo. Mentored by artist Lirio Salvador, Aze says her mentor brought spark to her wick. She started as an artist in 2010 and has exhibited her works in Art Fair Philippines, Modeka gallery and Aphro. She has also brought her art to places such as New York and Kenya.
Ged Merino, whose home base in New York City stays most of the time in his studio there. Art brought him to New York when he got the Jackson Pollock Memorial Scholarship in 1987. He decided to stay since he got representation from art galleries such as the Mirriam Perlman gallery in Chicago and The Multiple Impression gallery in SOHO. Usually, Ged travels to and from Manila, Bogota and New York every year. Known for using discarded textile materials mainly for his art, he continues to work on different materials since he currently uses photography print with stitching and embroidery for his works. Due to the pandemic, he ended up working in Bogota, which he considers as his second home. His wife is Colombian and they also have a home there. Prior to the pandemic, Ged visited Manila since his work was featured in Drawing Room Gallery’s booth at the ALT exhibit in Manila last February.
Monica Delgado, a New York based artist, creates acrylic paintings with a sculptural approach. She graduated cum laude and finished a Fine Arts degree from University of the Philippines. For her Chromaticity exhibit at Artinformal gallery in Manila launched last August, Monica made use of strips of acrylic paint which were carefully mounted in layers on a frame that looked like fabric from afar. She focused on the existential art situation on the “colorness” of white since as light, white is the presence of all colors but as paint it is the absence of all pigments. Some of her works were also exhibited at Modeka gallery’s Imogen exhibit in March.
A New Way of Working
Aze admits that the pandemic made her look at things from a new perspective since she wanted to continue doing her public art project Queen. “In a time of pandemic when almost everything shifted virtually, I questioned the Public space. If there is a space that was meant for the public and the public could not go out, where then is the public space?,” quips Aze.
(1) Queen in Kenya; (2) My Soul's Light; (3) Queen Azenith Rooftop Performance in Manila
Thinking out-of-the-box, Aze used virtual connectivity to show her art. “I performed with my Queen artworks almost everywhere inside our house and recorded them and put it out on social media and tie ups with different groups and organizations. When I have exhausted all the space we had at home, my husband thought of using our roof for the performance. I performed my brand new Queen Azenith wearable sculpture on the roof and submitted them to open calls”, says Aze.
Queen Azenith refers to both wearable sculpture and performance. On early mornings, they begin their
ascent on a steep ladder and make the necessary preparations before the artist wears the heavy object and
begins a meditative process.
Since facemasks are a must now and bayanihan spirit is alive, Aze also did online selling of facemasks and helped the community of her Cordilleran weaving teacher in Baguio.
For Ged Merino, he had to adjust working from Bogota during the pandemic. In 2019, he planned his activities and thought of focusing on his work at his studio in New York in 2020. “I wasn’t expecting to be staying this long in Bogota as I planned to fly in from New York, have some work done and fly back to NYC and work there. But all things happen for a reason. In a way, the pandemic forced me to do what I set out to do, just not in New York. But I get to do what I set out to do. Develop new work, focus on my studio practice and a big bonus was I even get to open Bliss On Bliss Art Projects Bogota through a collaboration with different artists last October”, says Ged.
1) Working on 2020 Vision 2020 Hindsight; (2) A meeting with a Bogota-based Curator Curating 5
Solo Shows in October (3). With Ged Merino's WIP 2020 Vision 2020 Hindsight;
(4) A New Work in Progress in Bogota
Artist Monica Delgado, had to move with her husband and dog to Charleston, South Carolina for a couple of months when New York became an epicenter in March.
Monica felt more connected to people online through her art. “Shows were postponed and some exhibits moved online. I felt more connected though than ever to other artists and galleries I work with through online chats. People still wanted to build and maintain community despite the chaos,” mentions Monica.
(1) Monica Delgado in her New York Studio; (2) Close-up Shot of Her Work; (3)
Some Materials Used for Her Masterpieces; (4) A work from Art in America Series; (5) Monica's work with her art critic, Baloo
She set-up a temporary studio so she could continue to do her work. “I set up a pop up art studio on a foldable 6 foot table and worked with limited materials and resources that were accessible to me at that time and place. Though I was forced to work smaller and use materials I had resisted using, I also found some new tools and mediums I would like to further explore. The pandemic isn’t over, but being back in New York and having access to my studio, I’ve returned to my systemized processes, but now have more ideas and concepts that I discovered during my time with the pop up art studio that I can’t wait to explore further,” says Monica.
Learnings and Sources of Inspiration
There are valuable learnings that the pandemic has brought these artists.
Aze is very process oriented. Her work is laborious and takes up a lot of time.
”My work is intuitive, spontaneous and meditative. The work is completed with what happens during the process of creation. There are many things this pandemic taught me. It taught me to breathe, to realize the importance of my health and that we needed rest, and that we can still learn, grow and expand our horizon,” quips Aze.
Aze Ong's Queen at Bliss on Bliss Studio in New York
For Ged Merino, inspiration for art comes from his own life experiences. In Bogota, part of his creative process is having a routine and taking daily walks with his friendly dog Barnaby, who has his way of attracting people which leads to opportunities for Ged to meet interesting and creative people. He also sketches his ideas but lets the work become organic as it progresses.
Ged Merino with his studio assistant, Barnaby
“My inspiration comes from collecting memories by building relationships, collecting objects which reminds me of places and friends and the environment on how I absorb it and how it affects me. So, the restriction of travel although I miss it has not restricted my process in fact it has enriched it. Like many artists there are two parts to my works. The individual practice and the participatory where I engage the community,” says Ged.
As an artist, Monica opts to stay optimistic and focus on what is important. “I’ve learned that there’s little control we have in and around our lives with all that’s going on in the world, but what we can control is what we spend our days on and how we approach each day. I’ve tried to not let fear and negativity take over and try to focus on what matters most to me, and I try to translate that in my art practice,” says Monica.
For inspiration, Monica reads, looks at art online and on social media and watches art documentaries. With the re-opening of galleries and museums in New York, she also visits when she can. “I’ve also dipped into ideas and sketches from my sketchbook or potential new processes I’ve noted that I’ve “bookmarked” to come back to at some point. Chromaticity was actually a product of one of those “bookmarked” ideas,” adds Monica.
Time lapse of Monica Delgado's Creative Process
In terms of her style as a contemporary artist, Monica likes challenging the conventional and creates sculptural looking art pieces. “My interest lies more in delving into the physicality of paint and exploring the multiple possibilities of paint behaving in unexpected ways. My process involves drying paint and then stacking, layering, coiling, rolling, draping or wrapping the paint around objects or cutting it into tiny pieces and adhering it together. My work presents paint simultaneously as both a three dimensional subject, object, and medium of the painting,” explains Monica.
Staying Future Proof
As artists, being open to changes, putting in the work and learning new things are key to evolving. The three artists also shared valuable advice to young artists who want to succeed and stay future proof in the industry.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t, because you can. Don’t let anybody tell you that it is impossible, because it is possible,” says Aze.
Monica’s direct advice to young artists is to “Just keep working! Don’t stop. Ever.”
Ged Merino summarizes from two sayings: “Two of my favorite sayings are from Picasso and Chuck Close. Picasso said: Inspiration has to find you working while Chuck Close said: Inspiration is overrated, some of us just get up to work everyday.”
With art being a means to inspire people, we certainly look forward to seeing more creative work by these artists who have the determination to pursue doing the work they love no matter what challenges come in the future.
Photos courtesy of Aze Ong, Ged Merino and Monica Delgado