This Filipino Painter and Poet Is Unmasking the Transformative Nature of Persistence
Tita Halaman spends most of her time in the garden of extremes. Raw, liberated, and bold in their movements, her mystically twisted figures convey the complexities of human emotion. While they may seem like they agonize, these characters actually come from a great yearning to persevere.
There's a tenderness to them that is sincere and deeply profound, too. Amid the perceived gloom, these stylized representations exude a feeling of optimism. Unrestraint, after all, can be a good thing. Much like the artist, they just can't help themselves. Like her, they are restless in their pursuit of bloom.
In case we're wondering, no, she's not called Tita Halaman because of her green hair. She actually chose the color because it symbolizes growth. The artist christened herself with the name "Tita Halaman" to complete her rebirth of sorts. It did justice to her "old soul" and introverted personality (she calls herself a stoic), the artist explained.
She added: "My real name is very hard to pronounce. I have to think of a name na tatatak sa art scene. Some people think, ‘oh nagda-drugs ka ba? Ano ba ‘yung Tita Halaman? At least I get to tell the story behind the name. Naaalala naman siya ng mga tao."
"Come Treat Me Good, Ill Treat You Better" (2022) by Tita Halaman, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas and the detail on “For Even Your Worst Case Scenario is No Match with Your Power” (2022) by Tita Halaman, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas.
View this post on Instagram
Before all this, she was actually a corporate trainer and motivational speaker for a company based in Bonifacio Global City. Her background helped her understand the power of emotional intelligence, which is a common theme in her work. Even then, she had that same burning desire for growth and expression, as well as for the exploration of the psyche.
During her lunch breaks, Tita Halaman would go to galleries around Taguig to inform her perspective. "I would talk to the gallery staff. And at the time, I didn’t know much about art. So ‘yung gallery staff parang nainis na lang sa akin. Gusto na akong paalisin kasi ang dami kong tanong tapos hindi naman ako bibili. Sulit naman lahat in the end," she quipped.
One of her first big painting projects was for a good cause. She did pieces and donated the proceedings to frontliners' groups. Tita Halaman would eventually sign under DF Art Agency, one of the leading professional artists' representative firms in the Philippines, in 2021. That's when she quit her day job. From there, she went on to do various group exhibitions. Now, she's emerged as one of the local scene's most exciting contemporary painters, set with a visual language distinctly her own.
In her first solo exhibition Writings of a Never Not Moving, Tita Halaman's wildly contorted figures are caught in the process of their own becoming but are trapped by the pitfalls of the human condition. They are engulfed in layers upon layers of feelings with no escape, much like our own inevitable fate. Nevertheless, we can sense that these subjects have harnessed the beauty in surrender.
This is prevalent in the thick impasto strokes that flow, weave, and burst at the seams of the canvas—literally, because she did the frames for each piece herself with epoxy clay. Her paintings bend gestures and forms, revealing vignettes of hopefulness, delirium, and conviction in the crinkles. They demonstrate movement as a remedy for madness. We also saw how her works bled into wonderful poetry. Each painting came with its own handwritten poem because, frankly, why not?
View this post on Instagram
Meet the Guy Behind Those Larger-Than-Life Murals All Over Metro Manila
Harnessing the Quiet Power of Poons With Artist BD Villareal
"A lot of new people discovered me," she stressed. "You get to touch the greater scope of collectors. Some people find my work unique. Some may say I was inspired by different artists." One of her personal heroes, artist Demi Padua, had even come to her show. "These artists are also critics and the fact that they loved it, it’s great."
Part of this creative eruption of hers, she pointed out, stems from her childhood. Growing up, she was always one of the quieter children in the room. "When I was a kid, I didn’t play with other kids. What I did was what I took my notebook and I drew figures. Akala ng magulang ko baliw ako. I was so shy. So drawing lang ako ng drawing." In her youth was also when her passion for art started. She would make hundreds of paper dolls out of cardboard, folders, and some oil pastel.
Oddly enough, her father wanted her to be a drummer. She ended up liking it, which led her to join different indie bands prior to becoming a visual artist. On a Friday night, we might've found her playing at some of Metro Manila's most famous music venues, like Route 196, 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub, and Mow's. These days, she's in a new band with her brother, Jerald, called No Lore, an indie alt-pop music group inspired by, well, Tita Halaman's own works.
"It comes naturally. When I need to paint, I’ll paint. As I paint, nakakaisip ako ng iba’t-ibang concepts," she said of her creative process. "After that, kapag natapos na ang painting, after looking at it closely and carefully, that’s when I write a poem. Then that’s when we can put music to it."
Tita Halaman's dog, Oddish, as seen in her studio space.
Tita Halaman thought about adding music to her first solo exhibit, as well, but ultimately decided not to (maybe next time). Paintings with poems are her specialty. It's a niche that's hers.
"When passion meets purpose, that’s when things become magical," the artist expressed. Her works will be appearing in more group exhibits later this year, including the upcoming Modern and Contemporary Art Festival. In the meantime, she's looking into new mediums to conquer.
"Right now, I’m learning sculpture using epoxy. Toy makers, they tell me na dapat gumawa daw ako ng toys kasi gumagawa naman ako ng dolls noong bata ako," she said. "I will not break my art style. Gusto ko lang matuto. Maybe I can make toys out of my own characters."
Art, of course, is as limitless as we want it to be. And in Tita Halaman's world, the limit does not exist. During the run of Writings of a Never Not Moving, someone had said to her, “Dami mong gustong gawin. Kaya mo bang gawin lahat ‘yan?”
To which we can only reply: Don’t worry, she can and, in due time, she will.
Learn more about her work by visiting the DF Artist Agency website. For Tita Halaman's poetry, click here. No Lore is on Spotify, as well.