From early macabre works to dreamy and whimsical realist pieces, Andres Barrioquinto’s art of 20 years has seen radical change, as encapsulated in Rizzoli New York’s latest book
Art critic Demetrio Paparoni has taken a closer look at the Tatler Asia's Most Influential 2021 lister Andres Barrioquinto, one of the most celebrated and internationally sought-after Southeast Asian contemporary artists today through a comprehensive monograph published by Rizzoli New York. In Paparoni's curation of the book aptly titled Barrioquinto, he gathered the writings of Patrick Flores and Elio Cappuccio that analyse the early works of the acclaimed artist from his first solo exhibition in 2001 up to his later works of the last decade. Fundacion Sansó museum director and curator Ricky Francisco, meanwhile, shares his tête-à-tête with Barrioquinto, who has been dubbed by the local art scene as the "Dark Man of Philippine art" to further grasp his artistic philosophy and the turning point in his career that pivoted his style from the "ugly" to the "beautiful".
"A friend of mine, Rocky David, told me that he wants to do a book project with Rizzoli," says Barrioquinto, recalling when he was approached to be featured by the globally renowned publishing house. "I was actually surprised because Rizzoli is known to be very selective with their roster of artists to publish, and they have never featured a Filipino artist yet."
With no hesitation, Barrioquinto jumped into the project managed by David and got to work together with Flores, Francisco, Cappuccio and the internationally acclaimed Paparoni—all whom he greatly reveres. "His work is very in-depth, as expected," Barrioquinto says about Paparoni. "He interviewed me and asked me personal questions, like the music I listen to. He was able to flesh out the distinctive soul of my work," he shares, expressing his happiness with the outcome of the book, including the writings of the others.
"In my opinion, the most successful works of Barrioquinto are those in which he blends Baroque and Japanese style, deriving from ukiyo-e prints," says Paparoni in an exclusive interview with Tatler. "In these works, he has achieved his own personal expressive figure. You immediately understand that 'Baroque Japonisme' belongs to him."
Barrioquinto is beyond category when one tries to define his art. The volume deals with the complex universe of the artist, retracing his early expressionist works to his recent neo-pop masterpieces. "Each artist has his own happy turning point; I would say that Barrioquinto's took place in 2009," Paparoni believes.
In his starting point as an artist, his personal life experiences as an adolescent migrant in Hong Kong and his formative years in Manila are what influenced his first solo exhibition, Stop Killing Me, in 2001. In his conversation with Francisco in the book, he said, "both cities were also created largely by colonisers who designed zones within these cities to divide and contain certain populations. . .there really is a sense of being closed off, confined and disconnected." This, the artist manifested in his early works described by many as violent, damaged, and neglected that he associated not only with the cities but also with society. "Ugliness, like violence, is relational. Both exist only if there is the 'other'. . .Also, there's something intriguing about ugliness and violence. . .it's natural to us and therefore, accessible. . .Everyone can relate to it. That's why I've focused on it as a subject over many years," Barrioquinto explains in the book.
Barrioquinto shares with Tatler that music plays a big role in his creative process. "It jumpstarts my creativity and saves me from loneliness. I'm inspired by some artists, good music, interiors, and quality company. In choosing elements to add to the portraits, everything is organic and random. I just allow things to happen."
From capturing monstrosity through his corporeal figurations to tackling morality by highlighting facial features, his figurative works have become eerie and ominous, as described by Francisco. Furthermore, Barrioquinto went through a conversion of faith at this pivotal moment in his career, which made him render works that speak of themes of salvation and faith. Eventually, his aesthetic has been influenced by Japanese artistic traditions like origami and ukiyo-e. This led him to infuse many cultures in his art, which speaks multitudes about our Filipino culture and eye on beauty. His masterful grasp of realism is evident in his commissioned portraits which "show us reality filtered through the effects of the telematic revolution," as Paparoni explains. "He sources a lot of his inspiration on the internet, creating a surreal atmosphere."
"Barrioquinto's monograph offers critical elements and useful information to those who want to approach his work," says Paparoni to Tatler. "I don't see many Filipino artists famous outside Southeast Asia, even if there are some very good ones. The Philippines has a diverse and vibrant art scene, and I could list many names [who have had international exposure]. But Barrioquinto deserves more attention."
In the book, Paparoni sums up the works of Barrioquinto as "significant points of discussion as to how the perception and comprehension of the world have changed in the new millennium. . ." as stated in his essay Andres Barrioquinto's Baroque Japonisme and Van Gogh's Cicada, the introductory and overarching narrative of the book about the acclaimed Filipino contemporary artist. "The method he uses to construct his imagery considers the artist a receptor who captures signals from both the external world and from the interior dimension—a process that triggers a short circuit, whereby an accumulation and overabundance of images is inevitably generated. . .Barrioquinto introduces the dynamics of the visual vortex generated by the Digital Revolution."
"I'm grateful to the whole team that helped materialise this book—the writers, the photographers and the organiser. I'm glad that my first book is by an internationally well-known publisher, and my writers are exceptional," the artist shares. The book was released in April 2022 through Rizzoli's website and flagship store at Broadway, New York, as well as on Amazon. In the Philippines, a book launching event is tentatively scheduled in August.
The incredible journey of Barrioquinto's art proves his unceasing pursuit of strong visual impact, yet the future remains unknown. Taking turns and refinements throughout the decades, his art "has always been unpredictably changing and transforming. . .an organic and intuitive process", says the contemporary art master.
Rizzoli New York
(Self-Portrait) Andres Barrioquinto