The dark side of Disney | | Philippine News
Home  » Lifestyle » Arts & Culture » The dark side of Disney

The dark side of Disney

The element of play within the works of Guerrero Habulan

Images by Pinggot Zulueta

The innocence of children is refreshing. It is among children, with their utter sense of wonder, that our guards are most down. Their presence evokes a unique form of honesty. They elicit the child that lies within, this small fracture of our being that has not participated in life long enough to develop the unique armors that protect us from the overwhelming turns of fate.

Such is the expression of our soul, which lies beneath the layers of doctrine and decorum, simply existing. As such, children are also quite frank in their observations, and we are forgiving of it, even encouraging it. As their initial experience is not hampered by expectations, their childlike wonder can pave the way for a certain kind of wisdom. This method of scrutiny, unabashed, has been the driving force behind Guerrero “RG” Z. Habulan’s creative journey.

Guerrero “RG” Z. Habulan (Manila Bulletin)

Guerrero “RG” Z. Habulan (Manila Bulletin)

“Over the years I think I have evolved as an artist by giving up on growing up,” says RG. As he has allowed himself to enjoy and play with the images he has accumulated going through his day-to-day life, he adds, “I try not to limit myself in using different kinds of materials and techniques in painting. I’m not so conscious anymore about how my art will evolve.”

The element of play is palpable within the works of RG, all of which clearly reflects his wit and humor in its ironic, even sarcastic, take on reality, thus presenting otherwise alarming and somber facets of society in a lighter manner. As one of the leading painters in his generation to embody the ever-evolving definition of social realism, he notes that the genre has noticeably expanded over the years to exhibit more flexible qualities. “It can be more provocative, sophisticated, or satirical, but leading in the same direction in different modes of temperament.” He highlights the emerging crop of young artists whose approach toward social realism has taken on a broader, more personal, and less political stance.

A graduate of the College of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines, he has had nine solo exhibitions to date, both in the Philippines and abroad, and has been recognized by a number of distinguished award-giving bodies for his impressive work. Although creativity runs in his blood, his early exposure to the arts and his subsequent academic training inspired him to assert his own individuality and pursue a more contemplative and distinctive approach and style, a style that respectfully aims to go beyond the theories that have been instilled upon him.

Destruct-Construct, Acrylic, colored pencil and oil on canvas, 2016 (Manila Bulletin)

Destruct-Construct, Acrylic, colored pencil and oil on canvas, 2016 (Manila Bulletin)

The weighty topics he chooses to tackle are poignant and striking for its relevance, despite his lighthearted and playful methods. The significance of his creations lies in its capacity to serve as a mirror not only of our everyday lives but of the consciousness that operates in the background to shape society as we know it.

This greatly stems from RG’s painstaking eye for detail, which distinguishes images that can evoke emotion and create an impact on the viewer, through which he constructs poignant narratives that are transferred into the canvas for aesthetically and intellectually stimulating pieces.

“I think the theory of my art making came from the firsthand experience of the struggle and success that I discovered in the street and the people I meet there. These triggered my consciousness to become more observant and sensitive to their plight.”

Immersion is key for the artist, who admits to being swallowed up in the void of the canvas as he orchestrates design harmonies through the subjects he chooses to engage in. He captures this intimate moment with no concern for time.

“My creative process is to go out and let my consciousness be engaged in street scenarios. For some reason I can’t help but notice details of what I see on the streets, whether a structure or a figure. Once it catches my attention it becomes the subject of my visual narrative.”

Essentially, according to RG, he toys with the canvas, patiently mulling over each design element. He creates layers through drawings, color, and texture, to ensure the organic flow of pigments and the depth of realism, which embodies his work allowing him to create an unusual union of forms. As he continues to fiddle with familiar elements, objects, structure, and figures, he allows it to evolve on its own time, without much prodding, it develops into its own intellectual language within the field of arts. It is through this platform that he interprets social and cultural contradictions.

Our culture’s hunger for western ideals struck RG, who admits he is drawn to natural colors in tandem with the cold grey palettes associated with industrial landscapes and sceneries. “It must be the environment I’m living in. I live in Antipolo City, where nature and industrial commercial spaces exist side by side. The concept of my work lately is about social and cultural realities, and contradictions of forms engaging on the expression of objects, structure, and figure demonstrated through the expression of the Filipino’s admiration of Western culture.”

He elaborately discusses this in his latest exhibit, “Disneytopia” on display until Dec. 4 at the Ben Cab Museum in Baguio. The collection features 11 works that capture the artist’s impeccable mastery over satirical realism as unexpected combinations decorate his canvas offering familiar images within unusual contexts.

“My latest show was inspired by the deconstruction of the American dream, particularly the concept of the happiest place on earth,” he says. “‘Disneyfication’ for me is the deconstruction of our reality to sugar coat the present situation.”

There is something jarring about his treatment. As he makes us aware of the illusion, it breaks the illusion altogether. The shiny gloss of imported images stands in stark, almost irreverent, contrast to the muted backgrounds. Western forms, in collaboration with the rather familiar dismal settings, pierces through the façade and trivialities.

“I have no rule that goes into each piece as I’m fond of fusing unlikely forms to tackle social and cultural contradictions. My works consist of many layers. It’s just simply lost and found of elements and incongruous relationship of its form.”

The impromptu and instinctive energy within his artwork begs viewers to take a closer look at preconceived notions and ideas, in order to scrutinize its very nature. With countless blank canvases awaiting his touch, RG moves forward guided by one simple artistic philosophy: “Always keep the child in you.”