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On the Bittersweet

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By Hannah Jo Uy

Images by Pinggot Zulueta

  • Hands Off, oil on canvas, 3×2 ft, 2017

  • Everything is Fine, mixed media on canvas, 2×2 ft, 2017

  • Mimic, oil and acrylic on canvas, 4×4 ft, 2017

  • Candy. oil on canvas, 4×4 ft, 2013

  • Inside Out, oil on canvas, 3×2 ft, 2017

    Eugene Cubillo’s innate ability to draw from everyday experience and develop insightful observations about the human condition has led to the creation of a new collection that touches on our ability to be our own hero and villain. In “Candy,” Cubillo embarks on a visual discourse on the self-destructive nature of humanity, highlighting the will that can lead to both our triumphs and downfall.

    The collection, he says, was inspired by the people he encountered going about his routine. “The greatest resource is my community,” says Cubillo, pointing to the vibrant and complex layers of encounters that take place in streets, public places, and common areas among neighbors, friends, strangers and lovers, each a universe on its own.

    Elaborating on the inspiration for his latest works, he says he was inspired to paint a certain object or non-living things that have a certain characteristic of human nature, showing how we often use certain objects to describe or define the people we encounter. Drawing on the metaphorical aspect of his approach, Cubillo says that “Painting things can be ‘paint-things’ or ‘pain-things.’”

    For the most part, Cubillo says that he was largely driven by the complexity of the human condition and how, more often than not, we are drawn toward things that we know deep down does not serve our interests. “What is it with us humans?” he asks through his paintings. “It seems to be a fact of life that when we want to do what’s right, we inevitably do what’s wrong.”

    Cubillo zeroes in on humanity’s predisposition to move toward things that do not help its overall well-being, similar to the old adage “ang bawal masarap.” “Often we say ourselves,” he says, “we won’t do [something] all the time, so it’s acceptable. But I find that when we feel good about something, we feel compelled to do it over and over again, not noticing that too much of a good thing can eventually lead to something bad.”

    Cubillo tackled this in the context of how a simple thought process can lead to greediness, addiction, and rampant consumerism. As such, he focused on candy, as an allegorical symbol of something that can make us feel good but, without proper mediation, can eventually lead to bitterness.

    While he does touch on the self-destructive nature of humanity, Cubillo emphasizes that we can also be our own salvation, pointing to the beautiful spectrum of experiences that we are given as we move forward navigating the complexities of life.

    In this collection, Cubillo showcases 10 paintings and mixed media works. “All of my paintings are treated equal,” he says, “they are like my babies, they all have different sizes and characteristic and every painting have a story to tell.”

    As his seventh solo exhibition to date, Cubillo shares his commitment toward creating ideas and visual languages that can easily understand by the viewers and his philosophy, emphasizing that “Constant work can achieve great result.” “Learning doesn’t end,” he says. “Keep on experimenting and learn something new.”

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