This artist paints scenes straight out of Stranger Things

ILLUSTRATOR Rom Villaseran

Visual artist Rom Villaseran has always been drawn to what is inherently true: reality and science. But within his reality is a sense of mysticism and wonder that translates into canvas through his incredible technical proficiency: stunning masterpieces that begin as watered-down acrylic swept randomly across a horizontally flat canvas. After the water evaporates and leaves behind patterns of pigment, he exercises his vast trove of creative vision, seeing past the liquid bleed marks to pareidolic images lurking beneath. In his most personal exhibit to date, Villaseran attempts to show that there are multiple sides to every story—you just have to pay attention.

There is reason behind the madness. The non-stop workload of being recognized as one of the Philippines’ most interesting contemporary artists was taking a heavy toll on his life. Mood swings began to get more erratic. Convinced to go to therapy, his psychiatrist recently diagnosed him with Bipolar Disorder which, while difficult to swallow, began to explain a lot: the mood swings, the reluctance to socialize, and the difficulty of fitting in. Villaseran decided he had to change things before irreparable damage was made. He began by painting a portrait of someone who meant the world to him: his wife Kara. Entitled “Sibol”, the striking black and white piece punctuated by bright yellow bumblebees and a single flower was to become the catalyst for the whole series of this new exhibition, “Ilaw ng Buwan.”


"Both of Me"

"I Am"


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"Pusang Itim"

"Sampung Anak Ng Gabi No 1"

"Sampung Anak Ng Gabi No 2"


"Sampung Anak Ng Gabi No 3"


Once he started painting about his life, he just couldn’t stop. Villaseran expounded on the dual personalities that existed within him. He painted the world between his selves: the creative, honest, fiery, and solitary artist and the affable persona he created to be able to interact with people properly. His way of coping with the dichotomy resulted in a rare series of self-portraits.

In his piece entitled “I Am,” Villaseran wholly embraces who he is. The self-portrait depicts a large figure emerging from shadows—the corporeal rendering of his Hades Persona—the faint light illuminating only his gaunt limbs and massive ram-like horns. Beneath it is an upside-down wintry landscape, barren save for silhouettes of trees and houses and a large dead tree in the center. At the very top is a hint of shimmering gold; a slight blue haze mirrors it directly opposite, representing a brightly illuminated daytime. There is life and hope on the flipside, but Villaseran’s monster prefers the sanctuary of shadows. For though he still needs to interact with the outside world to survive, the heart of this artist prefers the comfort and silence of solitude. It is a marvelous body of a work, especially when situated within his usual oeuvre, that succinctly and honestly expresses the two characters populating the same being that is Rom Villaseran.

“Ilaw ng Buwan” is on exhibit at Galerie Stephanie Unit 1B Parc Plaza Building, 183 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City from March 2 to 12, 2017.

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Patricia Barcelon
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