Cover Budji Layug, in front of "After the Rain" (2016), acrylic on canvas 6’x8’

The celebrated designer finds his own approach to painting: by pouring his art out

You may not want to go anywhere near Budji Layug when he paints. He puts one colour in a plastic tube dispenser, the kind that painting colours are packaged in, holds it and flails his arms away, splashing and splattering his chosen colour onto his canvas. “I paint outdoors most of the time because of the mess my style makes,” the renowned furniture and interior designer acknowledges. 

But make no mistake about it; the splashes and the splatters are not done at random, not at all. “What may come out on canvas may be unexpected”, Layug says, “but in my mind, I know exactly what I want to do. My hand is guided by my mind and my heart.”

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Pouring is what he calls this brushless style of painting—brushless after he paints the background. “Experimentation brought me to the pouring technique,” Layug says. “I was in search of myself, of how far my creativity can go. And I am satisfied now.”

With more time on his hands because of the pandemic, he embarked on his artistic journey in earnest. He went back to the masters and reviewed their techniques, reaching the conclusion that he must discover his own style, “my own approach to painting”.

An artist known to have no qualms redoing his paintings (read: painting on them all over again), Layug evolved some of his early works using the pouring technique. Doing so, he created modern interpretations of traditional subjects like his Sabongero series.

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He has been painting since 2004, even as he kept a full schedule with one highly lauded design project after another in his capacity as the other half of the leading Budji+Royal Architecture+Design outfit. In almost two decades, his canvases paid homage to a variety of subject matters, from landscapes to figures and abstracts, not lingering on one but frolicking through all. “It is more because of the way I think,” Layug says honestly. “I get bored with one subject. In the beginning, I was doing figurative movements and then landscapes. This time, I painted abstracts.”


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Above "Tsunami" (2021), acrylic on canvas, 96.5”x72” which portrays a swelling sea and marks the beginning of Layug’s journey into circular abstraction
“Experimentation brought me to the pouring technique. I was in search of myself, of how far my creativity can go. And I am satisfied now”
Budji Layug

The artistic growth, however, is recognisable. He, of course, sees it too: “The technique is evolving, it is transitioning. But my sensitivity has remained, my art has not lost my sensibility.” 

Layug’s paintings, 34 from his early to his latest works, were exhibited at the B&B Italia Showroom (Bonifacio Global City, September-October 2021) in a show titled Budji Atelier. “Before the pandemic, I was already planning on this exhibit. As the health situation worsened, it became more and more difficult to continue with this project. But it gave me more time to work,” he says. In less than two years of the pandemic, he created 25 paintings.

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Above "Spiral: in Blue" (2021), acrylic on canvas, 72”x72”

Layug’s works are not small. At canvases measuring 4ft x 4ft or 5ft x 7ft, they need space to be viewed. And space, Layug found at the B&B Italia showroom at the Fort. “The venue was perfect. I had all three floors of space,” he says.

Another advantage was that his art pieces were hung around complementing furniture. “The furniture in B&B Italia gives the right background for my artwork. If you are doing your home, you can already imagine what artwork you may want to add to it,” he says.

In fact, this is exactly the kind of venue he would prefer to exhibit in. But maybe, find one outside the Philippines. “Exhibiting here is limiting because the tastes and sensibilities tend to lean towards certain traditional styles. I really would like to show my work in Paris, New York and the like,” he says.

On the agenda for the future is to live somewhere, elsewhere. “I want to live maybe in Morocco, or Greece, get a house there and paint. I am in that mindset right now. That I like to explore outside,” he expresses a dream.

That dream, however, looks like it’s concretising more and more into a plan. With determination in his voice, Layug succinctly puts it: “Let’s make it happen!”


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This article was originally published on the January 2022 issue of Tatler Philippines. Download the issue for free on Magzter.

  • PhotographyMarc Heinrich Go
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