By HANNAH JO UY
Layout by PINGGOT ZULUETA
Images by CLEMS CRUZ
A year following the unparalleled devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda, Vincent Padilla unveiled a monument in Samar, Leyte to commemorate the victims of the storm surge. Reflecting on the many souls that perished in this calamity, Vincent created a hand reaching upward, resembling a tree from afar.
“The inspiration of the design was based on the narratives of the Yolanda victims,” he explains. “It was said that during the storm surge, the flood reached up to 18 feet and the only thing visible were the hands of those struggling to grab onto the branches, trying to escape death. After the tragedy, everything was in ruins. Those who were able to climb the treetops survived.”
Prior to this, Vincent admits, he was not particularly conscientious of climate change or global warming. “It was only during the production of this monument that I started to be passionate about the environment,” he says. “With this, I started to dream of creating a show meant not just those who appreciate art but even those who don’t go to galleries, museums, and art exhibitions.”
It’s the takeoff point for his show “Romancing the Inevitable,” currently on display at the NCCA Gallery and in Plaza Roma, at the heart of Intramuros, until May 3. Vincent’s decision to partner with the NCCA gallery stems from his desire to make his work more accessible to the community as part of his efforts to promote environmental advocacy through art.
“This exhibition is meant not only to frighten the viewers but also to enlighten them about the earth’s future if we don’t change our ways,” he explains. “This exhibition aspires to educate Filipinos everywhere.”
Vincent’s commitment to remain consistent with the show’s concept— to showcase the disturbing impact of human activity—influenced the type of material he was to use. So he opted for biodegradable and recyclable materials for his sculptures. This, however, presented a challenge, as he was creating works that are to be exposed to the elements and, thus, must be resilient. “If I use materials such as papermache for the big head there is a tendency for it get destroyed,” he says. “So I used an eco-friendly resin so that it would be sturdy enough for public display.”
The move toward installation art is a noticeable departure from his earlier works, most of which were paintings. But it is a natural offshoot of his evolution and he considers himself an eternal student of the arts. “I always make it a point that every exhibit I do becomes a learning experience,” he says. “I think it’s inevitable that I will look for another way to represent what’s on my mind, and this concept can’t be executed properly through paintings. Doing a public installation art is the most effective way for the concept.”
This exhibition is meant not only to frighten the viewers but also to enlighten them about the earth’s future if we don’t change our ways.
Vincent creates with a sense of urgency, eager to draw the spotlight on how our current way of life is scarring the planet. “I think most of Filipinos are not aware of the perils of climate change,” he says. “Those who are aware, however, would only see the façade of this dilemma. Sadly, there are still smoke belchers. People living in the rural areas are still burning leaves and garbage. Renewable energy is not a priority in the Philippines. These are just a few examples of how unaware we are.”
Vincent hopes his exhibit will inspire a change in behavior, jolting people out of complacency. The focus, therefore, is “to scare the viewers and to tickle their imagination.” This, he stresses, is the fundamental experience of art.
“As the imagination of your viewers start to wander, it becomes an extension of your exhibition,” he says. He hopes it will make viewers take a second look at the current state of the environment and be empowered to share in the responsibility of creating the future.
“Currently, the future that I foresee is the submergence of everything,” he says. “Thus, the sculptures are halfheaded and placed on the floor. But we could change this imagery if we start mending our ways as early as today.”
Far from being pessimistic, the exhibit highlights Vincent’s strong belief in the power of humanity and its ability to change the course of nature—of HOW TYPHOON YOLANDA SHAPED HIS ART Vincent Padilla’s show ‘Romancing the Inevitable’ is an environmental advocacy the future—for the better. “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable,” as famous street artist Banksy said.
“The idea,” Vincent says in his own words, “is to disturb those who are comfortable in continuing their wrong ways and comfort those who share the same vision as I.”