Cover Solenn Heussaff, Himagsik

Solenn Heussaff's third solo art exhibit "Kundiman", was recently launched on 25 March 2021 at the Modeka Art Gallery. It showcases a collection that moves the heart through painting and song

Art has comforted us—almost more than anything else—for the past year. Perhaps because we have faced what felt like an insurmountable experience at the most unexpected time. But it has also shown us a different perspective on life. And we can delve deeper through art exhibits like "Kundiman" by French-Filipina painter Solenn Heussaff to take a closer look into the lives of our fellow Filipinos.

However relevant the vision might be today, Heussaff began working on and accumulating the paintings much earlier. "I started them in 2018," she shared. The photos were taken during her travels from Rizal to Tondo. "It kinda shows how we're not doing much to change things... with the pandemic going on, people have realised all the things we took for granted before 2020. I think from now we're all going to put our best foot forward [and when] things normalise, I think people will be better to one another," the artist added.

Alongside each piece is a QR code that leads to a poem or a soundtrack to accompany the painting. This audio-visual experience brings a unique experience to each individual. 

Heussaff shared that most of the songs she picked for each artwork were chosen after working on the pieces. But there are also songs featured on each piece which the artist was listening to while painting them. Which, she explained, did not explicitly have any association with the meaning of the work.

The songs accompanying the paintings are by local artists. "We have so much great talent [in the Philippines,] so I thought it could be a nice addition when they came up with this idea," Heussaff said.

Read more: 25 Filipino Artists Under 40 To Watch Out For

The incredible detail and portrayal of the current state of Filipinos in tattered clothes and sober faces on all 11 paintings took Heussaff 300 hours. "At first she thought she didn't have enough," Gen-T honouree and curator Teresa Herrera-Anthony said during the virtual preview, "But it was good enough to tell the narrative".

Two large-scale paintings titled Himagsik and Within Reach 2030 is the culmination of Heussaff's vision. The photos she had collected, portraying everyday situations, are combined into one. The artist had drawn inspiration from the UN's plan to "eradicate poverty by 2030," Herrera-Anthony explained.

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Heussaff is hopeful for a brighter future—this is made clear in the vibrant colours and other elements of nature—flowers and butterflies—included in her pieces. The "Kundiman" exhibit started with the painting The Beginning, which explains why Heussaff depicted the abundance of nature throughout the exhibit. "It's [a] recall," she said, inspiring others to look back and understand our present state.

Among many others are a series of large paintings titled Kinabukasan, Busilak, and Paradise. Visit the exhibit and you'll find more of Heussaff's striking imagery and message of hope.