Cover Jon Poblador talks about his new exhibition titled 'Sanctuary' (Photo: Soluna Fine Art)

Jon Poblador is presenting his solo exhibition, ‘Sanctuary’, through June

As the saying goes, “patience is a virtue” and Jon Poblador knows this well. The Filipino American artist’s signature minimalist and monochromatic paintings often require “patience” to appreciate.

Poblador lived a nomadic life, having stayed in the Philippines, the US and China before settling in Hong Kong. This became a grounding source to dig deeper into his spirituality, a theme constantly present in his work.

As his solo exhibition, Sanctuary, opened at Soluna Fine Art, Poblador tells Tatler about his work, his love for minimalism and monochrome, and what he hopes visitors will take away from the show.

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What inspired the name of the exhibition? 

When we were putting the show together, the gallery and I considered words that would fit the themes in the work. I mentioned the feeling I’d like to create in the space. There is a quiet environment, produced by the reductive quality of my paintings. It is peaceful, sacred and reminds me of a small church.

Tell us about the pieces. 

It’s a selection of artworks from the past few years; the oldest painting is from 2018. They are all painted on canvas; we wanted to emphasise the colour and geometry.

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You describe your work as religious paintings—tell us more.

I often get comments concerning the patience that must be involved in making my work. Yes, it’s very time-consuming, precise and meticulous. Patience, however, requires the ability to tolerate discomfort without anger. I have dedicated myself to my craft and am maybe even a bit obsessed with it, so it is never about patience for me, but rather an affirmation of loyalty and love.

I have devoted myself to doing this for over two decades. Each artwork that I make is a form of prayer that is trying to commune with something divine.

What is the inspiration behind the use of chiefly primary colours in your work? 

I don’t use primary colours intentionally. Colour, as any artist would probably tell you, is mostly based on intuition; I choose a colour even before I begin to paint. But [the value of each colour changes] depending on what looks right—that’s the part that is difficult to explain.

Colour is comparable to sound. You need to have the right pitch or volume. There is a specific tone I am looking for, and each of my paintings are speaking a single, clear note.

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You have lived in the Philippines, Singapore and the US. How have your experiences shaped your work? 

Growing up in the Philippines set the tone for the issues I ended up studying when I entered art school. It is a deeply religious country, and it was the questioning of Catholicism during my early 20s in the US that led me to explore the topics I’m still trying to understand today.

Tell us about your creative process.

I have rules that I follow which are defined by my beliefs. Each painting that I make slightly alters [these rules], and each composition that I repeat further entrenches them. I’m actually quite dogmatic about them, but I’d like to think that some of the Buddhist teachings that I follow also allow me to be accepting, flexible and open to change. It’s a beautiful contradiction.

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What is it about monochromatic and minimalist works that appeal to you?

One of the ideas throughout my work is meditation [represented] by the repetition of shapes, marks and layers of paint that I apply over and over again. The geometry and the grid provide an ordered framework that lets me focus on the process and technique.

There is no illusion in my work. It is free from any imagery that connects it to the physical world. There are no symbols, no stories, and I discard unnecessary decorations. What remains is the purity of shape, colour, texture, and whatever emotional response these elements provide the viewer.

What do you hope visitors will get out of your exhibition?

Locally made reductive art is not commonly shown in Hong Kong. The style can put some people off because, conceptually, it can be difficult to approach. It is also often dismissed as too simplistic and requiring very little skill from the artist. I’d like for the show to provide a learning experience for people not familiar with my form of abstraction.

Most importantly, however, I think my paintings have something unique to say. I would like visitors to take a break from the visual noise that surrounds us—to experience something quiet and serene. The show is called Sanctuary, after all.

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Sanctuary at Soluna Fine Art runs until June 25

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