Books & Art

'The Little Big Art Show' and the Little Big Gallery That Started It All

"Can the Philippine art scene be democratized?"
IMAGE VINTANA GALLERY

Who gets to gatekeep art? On a fundamental level, no one should, but the politics of the art scene say otherwise. Nevertheless, a handful of newer galleries are breaking these old-world notions. One of them is Vintana.ph, a relatively young collective that hopes to bridge the gap between the artist and the viewer (minus the rigidity of traditional galleries). In a greater sense, Vintana hopes to be a part of a new "cultural awakening" in the Philippine Contemporary.

Kirk Dijamco, who will be one of the featured artists in Vintana's The Little Big Art Show 2022, has been working with the gallery since 2020. The self-taught artist has held exhibits in places like Artery Art Space and Vinyl on Vinyl in Manila in the past. Dijamco was approached by Vintana sometime during the pandemic, and has went on to establish a meaningful partnership with the group.

“It’s all about the individual, introspection, how the human condition is distilled to one person. ‘Yung reaction mo to everyday life," the artist said of his work. “Man’s place in a modern world, which is basically crumbling. I try to not think of it all. Ayoko sabihing cynical ang works ko e. Mukha siyang cynical pero it’s not. It’s basically about enjoying life, parang hedonism ang dating. You’re going to die anyway.”

The painter is one of the many fresher contemporary artists that Vintana has collaborated with. He said that he liked Vintana's vision, as it puts art education, outreach, and literacy above all else.

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"Punk Flowers" (2022) by Argie Bandoy, Oil on Canvas, at the exhibit preview. The piece showcases his free-flowing, brute gestural abstractions.

Photo by Vintana Gallery.

Vintana Co-Founders Gallery Coordinator Ryan Robert Flores, Art Director Angela Gaddi, and Managing Director Ram Bautista were good friends back in High School. They had reconnected a few decades later to set up the gallery. “We want more Filipinos to engage with Filipino art and to make it richer. So that it may enrich their lives and their experience of being Filipino,” expressed Bautista.

Photo by Vintana Gallery.
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Dijamco's figures and compositions capture the spirit of the underground. They're as punk as they are sentimental (in a classical way). This can also be said about the zeitgeist of Vintana. It rebels against mainstream perceptions of contemporary culture, and creates spaces for freewheeling thought, creative liberation, and plain stupid fun.

The great Art Historian Allice Guillermo, in The History and Current Situation of Modern Art in the Philippines, had claimed that there should be no such thing as low and high culture anymore, nor should there be any division between commercial and fine art. In the Philippine Contemporary, lines are blurred and culture and art become one. While modernists reckoned with the post-war, post-colonial, and post-industrial, contemporary artists reconcile the post-modern world with the post-pandemic. This has brought a new configuration of art, which Dijamco, had pointed out, should usher in the next reiteration of the local art movement.

“I see a lot of young artists, very good artists. My contemporaries and I talk about how good they are. I love their energy. Me, as a millennial, then you have these Gen Z artists, they’re so good, man. I feel like I’m reliving my 20s," said Dijamco. "I see them having more autonomy. Kasi ang dami kong nakikitang mga millennial na locked by the gallery system. I see a lot of fellow artists that have their voices tuned down because their works were not ‘sellable.’"

"ElectroPlankton in GaraCosmic Spaceship" (2021) by Dex Fernandez, Acrylic on Shaped Canvas and “Temporary Equipoise” (2022) by Jared Yokte, Acrylic on Canvas.

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Photo by Vintana Gallery.

“Mars Yellow Baby 1” and “Mars Yellow Baby 2” (2022) by Aba Lluch Dalena, Mixed Media on Canvas.

Photo by Vintana Art Gallery.

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Vintana, for its part, veers away from the conventional gallery structure. "Art for all" is a signal, mission, and practice. Established in 2019, it started out as an online platform that functioned as a conduit that facilitates the sharing of the Filipino Contemporary between artists, collectors, and consumers. Fast-foward to 2022, the group has now found its physical home by creating a gallery space at The Astbury in Poblacion, Makati, which has emerged as an artist hub of sorts in the city, too.

The Little Big Art Show 2022 hopes to expand Vintana's vision for a larger spirited art community. It features a diverse set of works from both established and emerging artists, including Manuel Ocampo, Dex Fernandez, Kiko Escora, Lourd De Veyra, Aba Lluch Dalena, Lena Cobangbang, and more. Their works will be available on the Vintana website, as well.

“In terms of the selection of artists for The Little Big Art Show and the curatorial process for this specific show, it’s meant to be a survey of the post-pandemic and the creative energy that comes out of that," said Vintana Co-founder and Art Director Angela Gaddi. "It’s not just that we think their art is good. It’s about their history and telling their stories. That’s essential. We think of ideas on how to curate the how, but we also give the artists a lot of freedom.”

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The question of whether or not art can be democratized, we can say, is almost always up to the gallery structure. To effectively transform the institution, it takes galleries that know how to reshape conformities and ideas, encompassing the academic, commercial, and popular aspects of the Filipino art scene. It always starts with the little big galleries, after all, and Vintana is right there, front and center.

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The Little Big Art Show will be available for public viewing from July 16 to July 27, 2022 at The Astbury in Makati. For more information, visit Vintana Art.

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About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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