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The darker side of us



By Hannah Jo Uy

Images by Pinggot Zulueta

  • Untitled, Black and White, Charcoal on Pressed Arches Papera

  • Untitled, Black and White, Charcoal on Pressed Arches Papera

  • Untitled, Black and White, Charcoal on Pressed Arches Papera

  • Untitled, Black and White, Charcoal on Pressed Arches Papera

  • Untitled, Black and White, Charcoal on Pressed Arches Papera

    “Opening up the less pleasing aspects of oneself to strangers tends to jar them, doesn’t it?” asked Jose “Jojo” Legaspi. Indeed, there is a portion of our personal being often hidden, whether consciously and unconsciously, from the rest of the world. The darker side of us that we try to push down in favor of thoughts and feelings that are less peculiar and we deem more acceptable.

    “Society holds tightly to reassuring notions of what normal people are like,” Legaspi said, “which means we exclude a lot, leaving only the admissible shell that people artfully pretend to be.” Legaspi poses an antidote to this condition: “Art,” he said, “is the superior and committed reporter of these inner states, a channel where we find our own neglected thoughts. This is where I gravitate.”

    A contemporary voice highly praised in local art circles for his unabashed portrayal of the thoughts that lie in the deeper part of our psychic crevices, there is something freeing about the dialogue that Legaspi instigates through his work. Within his oeuvre, there is a place for humanity’s hidden thoughts and desires, it is accepted and recognized as a fixture of our existence, and not judged in any other way.

    Legaspi describes his entry into the art world as a “peculiar coincidence.” “I studied zoology as a pre-medical course,” he said, “I was planning to be a doctor, but circumstances prevented me from this pursuit.” By chance, Legaspi got into a workshop at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and became fully engaged in art through the supervision of Visual Art director, Ray Albano. “If it was not for that incident, I wouldn’t have become an artist.”

    This period laid the foundation of Legaspi’s uncensored approach toward the visual elements he tackled. “I was trained” he said, “by a progressive conceptual artist [Albano] at a time when art was formed within a painful social environment.” There, Legaspi said, monetary trade took a backseat. He described this period as “a time when the hunger artist takes on its literal meaning.”

    “This stage in art making molded me early on,” he said, “and the attitude toward its creation endeared me to producing artistic expressions that were all about self-honesty and self-observation.”

    Legaspi remains unabashed about his fascinations. “I have always been attracted with what ‘The I and the others’ truly feel, want, and think,” he said. “[and] with the more generous, wilder, and terrifying sides of its nature, leaving out the socially accepted appearances.”

    These, he said, remain to be the subjects and themes of his work. “An example would be: with an illusion of a better leader, people picked a gangster-looking foul-mouthed despot whose words they take by heart,” he said, “Something’s amiss here. This is the unspoken fallacy I portray.”

    His reflections on human nature and its social implications all find their place in his chosen medium: “The fragility of paper and the crumbly, delicate pastel [that] strikes it is so melodious,” he said, adding oils has never enticed him.

    For the most part, Legaspi doesn’t hold himself to any particular “conveyable, measurable, or own-able philosophy.” The same goes for his creative process. “There are many theories about creativity and its origins,” he said. “Personally, I can’t pinpoint where it comes from. It is just there.” Though there no rigid method or approach that Legaspi abides by, nor is he too keen on self-analyzing, when asked whether spontaneity drives his practice he answered, “Maybe— I’m not sure. But it could stem from self-honesty and self-observation.”

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