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Portraits of the Avant-Garde

Victor Balanon in Taipei


By Rica Arevalo

During a recent trip to Taiwan, we were surprised to see artist Victor Balanon in the least expected place—the crowded Shinlin public night market!

I first met Vic in 1996 at the Mowelfund Film Institute.  We were both attending the Independent Film Animation Workshop.

What brought him to Taipei? “I have a solo exhibit at the Mind Set Art Center,” he said.  The title is For Tomorrow You Will Not Recognize Us, a phrase lifted from Russian artist Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Manifesto.  “The gallery got in touch with me back in 2013. They were visiting Manila to make connections with local artists and galleries. They must have seen my work somewhere, or somebody recommended me to them,” he explains.  “They liked what I was doing, and so I got invited to have a show in their gallery.  Andre Lee (the gallery owner) and I also share the same fondness for Andrei Tarkovsky films, so we got along well almost immediately.”

The Kindly Ones

The Kindly Ones

The Manifesto expressed the need for abstract art based on “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than on visual depiction of objects. “The show is a collection of portraits of modernists, avant-garde artists from the art history canon who have contributed or explored this idea further,” says Vic. “I was able to finish 32 portraits. In addition to the portraits, I also projected a series of video animations made and exhibited locally last year, as a complimentary piece.”

avant-garde mb2

Vic studied Dental Medicine and Fine Arts major in Advertising at the University of the East. He worked at Toei Animation, the leading Japanese animation studio before deciding to quit to pursue his passion in the arts. He usually dabbles in India ink, masking medium and correction fluid on canvas paper.

What stimulates his works? “I am inspired by works not only in the field of visual arts but also in cinema, photography, literature, critical theory, and also popular media cultures like comics, animation, and punk music.”

Nameless Hundred XXXI, 2013

Nameless Hundred XXXI, 2013

He usually chooses film stills as starting points of his paintings and images from his favorite directors Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Bresson, and Tarkovsky. “My usage of their images is not merely superficial,” says the 44-year-old artist. “I am especially interested in their ideas and aesthetic choices and as to how they managed to express them through their imagery. I, on the other hand, make use of what is already available to serve as catalysts and conduits for my own ideas to materialize into concrete forms.  Similarly, in my recent video animations, I was inspired by the music of Philip Glass and Steve Reich and made use of their minimal, repetitive, and abstract compositions as models on how to construct my moving images.”

Vic’s works have been included at the Jakarta Biennale, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, the University of the Philippines’ Vargas Museum, and the Singapore Art Museum.

Tomorrow You Will Not Recognize Us runs until April 1 at the Mind Set Art Center, 7F., No. 180, Sec. 1, Heping E. Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan.

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