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All the pretty horses

Dimensione pays tribute to Magis as it celebrates its 40th anniversary by tapping 14 local artists to reimagine Marc Newson’s iconic Rocky

Images by Noel Pabalate

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  • Renato Barja, Jr.

    Renato Barja, Jr.

  • JJ Zamoranos

    JJ Zamoranos

  • Galaxie Maria

    Galaxie Maria

  • Egg Fiasco

    Egg Fiasco

  • Jason Moss

    Jason Moss

  • Sonny Sunga and Arnold Austria of Jagnus Design Studio

    Sonny Sunga and Arnold Austria of Jagnus Design Studio

  • Jason Montinola

    Jason Montinola

To mark Magis’ 40th anniversary, Dimensione, exclusive Philippine distributor of the Italian-made high-end furniture and home accessories brand, has tapped 14 local artists from Secret Fresh gallery to reinterpret the Magis Rocky.

Designed by Australian industrial designer Marc Newson, the Rocky is made of rotational and molded polyethylene in the shape of a miniature horse that comes with its own saddle and a pair of stirrups. In keeping with its name, the accent piece rocks and, depending on the person’s weight, can be sat on. The plain, unadorned version comes in white, brown, and black, and retails at P59,950 at Dimensione’s Bonifacio Global City (BGC) branch on 28th Street corner 7th street.

Part of the event’s fun is to see how artists Renato Barja, Jr., Iya Consorio, Egg Fiasco, Mark Andy Garcia, Yeo Kaa, Luis Lorenzana, Galaxie Maria, Gene Paul Martin, Jason Montinola, Jason Moss, Christian Tamondong, Clairelynn Uy, JJ “Exld” Zamoranos, and business partners Sonny Sunga and Arnold Austria of Jagnus Design Studio reinterpret their respective horses. Apart from Austria and Sunga, who are both architects, the rest of the featured artists are painters and muralists. In Barja’s case, he’s also a sculptor.

Because of the time and effort put in by each artist, the spruced-up Rocky horses are priced somewhere between R100,000 to R400,000. The collectors’ pieces will be on display at Dimensione Studio at BGC until Aug. 31.

It took Montinola, for instance, one month to finish his Rocky dubbed as X since he was also attending to other works in varying stages of completion. As a painter used to working on a conventional canvas, he found painting on a “3D object” harder.

“I had to consider the edges and hidden areas,” he said, while pointing to his spray-painted horse in gradating shades of black, white, and touches of gold. “My horse is white, which I spray-painted in black using all sorts of paints like automotive paint, acrylic, and stencils.”

The piece’s highlight is a female figure combined with flowers and a string of pearls in such colors as red, green, and beige set on a distressed white background with patches of black. The style is reminiscent of drawings of flowers, hearts, arrows, and playing cards found on t-shirts with labels like “Love Hurts.” This time, Montinola drew a strip of ribbon underneath the female figure with the word “Alas.”

Muralist-turned-painter Fiasco, who calls his piece Nebula Drift, also found it challenging to work on an irregular space. He aimed for “color harmony” as he did his signature lines and geometric shapes on a black Rocky in a palette of candy colors such as sea green, fuchsia, pink, magenta, yellow, mustard, purple, lavender, and red.

“You just step back and look at the proportions when painting on a canvas,” he said. “Here, you have to go around and consider the entire thing. I’ve always been fascinated by cosmic imagery like stars and galaxies, and that fascination is reflected in my work.”

Barja, a painter-slash-sculptor, breezed through the challenge since he has done something similar in the past. For his Dead Horse, a statement on people’s preoccupation with their careers to the point of living “tired, sad, and hopeless lives” like “zombies,” the artist used such materials as resin, epoxy, plastic wire, enamel, and acrylic to produce a mummified horse complete with exposed reddish flesh and life-like maggots.

To add to its surreal and decayed quality, Barja embellished his Rocky with a pair of protruding fiber glass eyes and false teeth. He also had to saw off and sand the figure’s built-in saddle and stirrups to achieve his vision.

“The idea of this piece is about society, everyday people who are working like a dead horse,” he said. “We now live in a world where we have no time for everything because all our time has been eaten up by work.”

The grotesquely fascinating figure is also his way of dealing with a personal tragedy. Two years ago, Barja’s father, to whom he was very close, died. “This is my statement,” he said. “You just have to take it [death in the family]. You can’t complain. Everybody dies. Everybody leaves this world.”

Thanks to her background as an industrial designer, Galaxie Maria was also “fine,” as she “thought in 3D” while working on her Rocky. As an artist, her works are heavily influenced by the old masters, she said. The challenge for her has always been how to put a contemporary twist to her pieces. This time, using oil, acrylic, and gold stamping, she channeled the style and aesthetics of Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky to produce Kadinsky Lily, a whimsical take on a deceased master known for his child-like doodles and smudges.

“Kandinsky had always painted horses throughout his lifetime,” she said of her tribute piece. “The thought process in its creation revolved around what it would be like for a horse if it dreamed or imagined Kandinsky.”

Architects Sunga and Austria did away with their Rocky by commissioning a builder to produce Dark Horse, their version of Newson’s iconic design using several planks of light, durable, and sustainably grown gmelina (white teak) wood. Painted in black and bound together by several screws, the figure also comes with its own rocker.

“We were the only architectural firm that was invited, and we don’t paint, it’s not our medium,” said Sunga. “We decided to express ourselves with what we’re familiar with.”

The entire piece is unpainted except for the horse’s sides, including its built-in rocker, which is painted black. The pair also added a layer of sealant to keep water and moisture from seeping into their horse.

“We conceptualized Dark Horse for a week, but it took its builder around three weeks to execute it,” said Austria. “We didn’t touch the Rocky given to us. Instead, we traded it with Dark Horse’s builder.”