Books & Art

These Filipino Artists Created Portraits Using Thousands of Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces

The artwork talks about the artists' journeys and experiences as Filipino migrants.
IMAGE COURTESY
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Collaborative husband-and-wife artists Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan's work Foreigners is striking at first glance. The diptych, which measures six feet by five feet, is a marvel to look at not only because of its sheer size or the image it depicts but also because it is much more complex than the usual self-portrait.

By using thousands of European landscape jigsaw puzzle pieces as a medium, the artists were able to present the idea behind the portraits in a new way. "[Foreigners] talks about 'us' (me, my wife and collaborator Isabel, and our five children) and our journeys and experiences being a Filipino migrant, but significantly, it is also about the broader context of the Filipino diaspora," the artists explained. That is, of course, "belonging, migration, and dislocation" which has always been a central recurring theme in the artists' collaborative practice.

Photo by COURTESY.

Aside from migration as a central issue in their works, the artists are known for using materials that inform their practice, as well as their everyday life and experiences. In the past, Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan have used different materials and techniques to relate to an idea: cardboard, rubber slippers, sickles, boats, toothbrushes, domestic objects, personal effects, and more. 

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"In our practice, we always try to make sense of whatever materials on hand and how it relates to an idea, we tend to use everyday materials as a strategy for the audience to relate and interact with the artwork as the material itself and the object created becomes the signifier of meaning. Our projects concern the power of objects and their significance, the use of nondescript things in our works become valued through association, rather than by their inherent value," they added.

Photo by COURTESY.

The two portraits were based on photos of their newly acquired Australian passports, while the puzzle pieces came from mass-produced European landscape scenery sets mass-produced in China. It debuted in Hong Kong in an art fair run by Art Basel, and was ultimately acquired by a Sydney-based Australian art collector.

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Even the long process of putting the work together also contributed to the idea of it as a whole: "It's a critique of the idea of image-making. The work also references the way we perceive the globalized world in a contemporary period."

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Paolo Chua
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor of Esquire Philippines.
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