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A Student Of Life

How Neil Pasilan’s art is a product of everyday learning


By Hannah Jo Uy

Layout by Pinggot Zulueta


Noon Sa Amin, Mixed media, 2019

Nature has an uncanny way of passing on its knowledge to the select students that have showcased a willingness to receive its wisdom. Visual artist Neil Pasilan is one such student. A native of Negros Occidental, Neil has fond memories of growing up in an idyllic, coastal town where the boundless sea was his playground. “It was a happy time,” he recalls. “I learned how to fish and everyone from the baranggay knew each other.”


Neil Pasilan

It was also during this time that Neil came to know that his older brother, cousin, and a good friend were dabbling in art. Camaraderie was sparked among the creative minds. “We would watch the sunset almost every day, rain or shine, and talk about nature and spirituality,” he says. Adulthood eventually came knocking. And when it came to finding a means to earn, Neil put his hands to work.


Original Place, mixed media, 2019

“That’s when I learned how to make small sculptures from clay,” he says, adding that he would sell these sculptures to all the neighboring towns. “Every fiesta, I would bring everything I made: Small works, like drawings, sculptures, and necklaces made of clay. Clay was the only available material in our area that was free.”

The self-taught artist dove headfirst into the creative life and has since continuously refined his work and explored different facets of his own aesthetic styles. As a multi-disciplinary artist, Neil shifts seamlessly between working on paintings and sculptures, pointing out that it’s never about the medium—the material is merely a vehicle for the message. It’s all about technique and the artist’s approach when it comes to handling the material. Admittedly, he adds, he has cycles where he favors particular colors and textures, and he is especially comfortable working with industrial paint.


Dasal Ko Dasal Mo, mixed media, 2019


Isla, mixed media, 2019

When it comes to his process, Neil admits that the catharsis offered by creating sculptures varies greatly compared to painting. “With sculptures, you can walk around, play with it, and experiment with different mediums,” he says. Different, however, doesn’t mean he favors one over the other as he finds the act of painting immersive.

Your work is the diary of your heart and mind. Everything you have ever seen, ever memory you have ever made, will find its way to your work.

As such, he bares his soul to each and every artwork he creates. “It’s good to draw from your own experiences,” he says, “because an artist is always going to be more comfortable with what he knows best. For example, if you are always watching sunsets, it will eventually find its way into your work. Your work is the diary of your heart and mind. Everything you have ever seen, every memory you have ever made, will find its way to your work, even as you age.” For Neil, this is the essential beauty of the human experience.

As such the artist believes every moment presents itself as a learning experience. “For me, every person you encounter every day of your life is a mentor, because every person you encounter has one or two things to teach you, be it good or bad,” Neil explains. He stresses that it is important to find joy in one’s craft, and to complement playfulness with discipline so you can stand for what you do as an artist. He also says that the biggest challenge is to always maintain respect, not only for himself as an artist but also to extend this to his contemporaries. “If you have friends who are artists,” he adds, “it’s good to always talk and discuss about art.” Critical discussion and throwing ideas back-and-forth between like spirits is vital to a healthy and prolific creative life. “I think these art conversations are like vitamins for artists,” Neil points out.


Salamat, mixed media, 2019


Mangangaral, mixed media, 2019

He admits that his works are deeply personal in nature, which is a reflection of his own creative philosophy. It is this earnestness, this candid demeanor and authentic approach, that Neil unconsciously weaves into his oeuvre, be it paintings or sculptures, so that each piece allows viewers to engage and interact with the artist’s psyche.

This has come to fruition in his latest show, aptly named “Personal.” which is on display at Art Informal until May 25. Neil says that he is also in the process of preparing for an upcoming exhibit at the Pinto Museum on September, where he plans to experiment with a massive work that depicts urban life in black and white. For Neil, with life as his mentor, the universe as his teacher, and experience his biggest source of inspiration, art is a doorway to infinite possibilities.

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