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A little comfort in these unsettling times

After Tokyo and Taipei, international Filipino artist and architect Melissa la O’ debuts at Singapore’s Art Stage 2018


“Through my paintings, I search for the architecture in nature and its effects on the built world,” says international Filipino artist and architect Melissa Echauz la O’. Following successful shows in Tokyo, Munich, and Taipei in 2017, la O’ will mount her first solo exhibition, “Eden,” at the 8th annual Art Stage Singapore, one of Asia’s leading contemporary art fairs, from Jan. 26 to 28 next year.

“Pieces of nature, such as passing sunlight, mist, and falling leaves are smashed, stretched out, and redistributed into a fixed space,” adds la O’, whose recent works have been selected by Salcedo Auctions to be displayed at NAIA’s Singapore Airlines lounge until May 2018. “I set out to depict fleeting atmospheres and recomposed landscapes of our hidden worlds, where sensations trigger memories and the world around is vivid and alive in our waking hours.”

  • Melissa Echauz la O’ photographed in front of her painting, ‘Big Tropics Yellow,’ during her November 2017 solo show in Clear Edition Gallery, Tokyo

  • Big Tropics Mist, oil on canvas, 172.5cm x 223cm

  • Brave Flowers 3, oil on board, 35cm x 27.5cm

  • Brave Flowers Blue, oil on board, 40cm x 30cm

  • Pink Tropics 1, oil on canvas, 162.5cm x 105cm

    La O’, 43, had her first show at the Ayala Museum at 18 and again at 21, before pursuing architecture studies in the United States, where she earned degrees from both Columbia University in New York and the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles. After practicing architecture in California for many years, la O’ decided to devote herself exclusively to painting in 2007.

    She has since shown at Jarmuschek + Partner in Berlin, Pon Ding Space in Taipei, Finale Art File and Salcedo Auctions in Manila, ARGE Müller Wellner in Munich, and Clear Edition Gallery in Tokyo, among others. In 2013, she also organized the pop-up exhibit, “A Curious Limbo,” with internationally renowned artist Manuel Ocampo.

    For her Art Stage Singapore debut “Eden,” where she will be represented by world-renowned Japanese curator Yoichi Nakamuta and his gallery Clear Edition, la O’ will explore the idea of a tropical paradise through large-scale oil paintings of landscapes, foliage, and flowers.

    In her fresco-like paintings for “Eden,” her rococo tendencies shine. Flowers emit a dream-like frequency by taking less specific forms. It’s capturing a part of a landscape, where the sun just barely kisses the foliage and picturing a very long sunset where the light is softest, and everything is pink. Recently, her foray into painting on brown linen succeeds in maintaining the tactility of her brushstrokes, without losing the vibrancy of her colors (if anything, they became more agile) and that sense of place.

    Her work is an easy read for people who have seen a lot of paintings. “When I see paintings, I see the materials before I see the image, I see the colors, the speed of the brushwork,” says la O’. “I am attracted to the surfaces, the energy the painting emits, I am obsessed with Turner, Constable, Hockney, Peter Doig, Chris Ofili. These artists spent a lot of time outdoors, and I like that.”

    La O’s work is inherently local and in line with the tradition of painters playing witness to their surroundings. It is expressive, and reflects the rhythm of nature in symbolic but also perceptive ways. Layered washes, haptic brushwork and color, abstract pictorial motifs wherein figuration is re-territorialized—her paintings brings ease, comfort, and healing to unsettling shifting landscapes of our confusing times. A vivid, intelligent medley of what home is.

    “Eden” by Melissa la O’ will run at the 2018 Art Stage Singapore (www.artstage.com) in Marina Bay Sands from Jan. 26 to 28, 2018. www.melissalaostudio.com; @melissala.o (Instagram).

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