By Hannah Jo Uy
Page Design by Pinggot Zulueta
Art is deeply embedded in the DNA of their family. Along with his brothers Luke, Aldrine, and Didier, Ejem Alarcon has been making waves in the local and regional art scene. While his burgeoning painting career is made more meaningful with his siblings by his side, it also serves as a fulfillment of a passion that had its roots since he was a young boy.
When he was just four years old, Ejem recalled that his mother and father had already observed his steadily growing interest in the arts. “When I got older,” says Ejem, “I realized this was really the path for me, and I took up fine arts as a course when I went to college.” And soon after, he began exhibiting with his brothers. Together, they became known as the Alarcon brothers. “I have no regrets when it comes to the path and profession I have chosen.”
Ejem’s commitment to life in the arts is steadfast. “In my opinion, art is the most valuable and meaningful talent that God has given us,” he muses. “It is through art we can freely express whatever comes from our heart and mind and create something beautiful.”
It is owing to this deep appreciation for the divine power of creativity that Ejem takes his craft with a lot of seriousness, carefully reflecting upon each work before embarking on a new piece. “First of all, before I go about making my work, I write out the concept that comes to my mind,” he says. “It’s only after that I begin to draw these ideas so I can project and flesh them out before I create new artworks.”
In this process, Ejem draws inspiration from the local contemporary artists that he looks up to, both for their aesthetics as well as for their seamless ability to execute unique and poignant concepts. This includes the likes of Renato and Guerero Habulan, Alfred Esquillo, Rodel Tapaya, and Ronald Ventura.
That said, Ejem actively cultivates his own visual narrative and distinct style, which is more in line with pop culture comics, as he leverages his background in graphic arts to present reimagined versions of historic scenes. “I wish to convey through all my works the importance of history and culture.”
While Ejem is driven to paint by passion, he also believes that artists should also have a responsibility to use their craft as a platform to ignite a deeper appreciation of nation, culture, and humanity in general. “I want to paint with a purpose,” he said, “which is to honor the history and the past that we are no longer familiar with and to underline the importance of family and doing good to your fellow man.”
As such, with each work, Ejem presents reimagined versions of historical scenes as a commentary and challenge to a modern society that is moving farther and farther from its roots. “For me, history is so important to our lives and it is through it that we understand where we are coming from and the narratives and significant events we ourselves were not able to witness with our own eyes. In understanding history, we also learn and appreciate the massive sacrifices made by so many people that came before us and which laid the foundation for life as we know it.”
In many ways, Ejem’s move to flesh out our nation’s past is also a way to reinforce the Filipino identity. He comes to this realization, especially following his participation in international group shows, with the most recent project a successful a group show entitled “New Wave” under One East Asia, a Singapore based gallery. “Every time I have an exhibit in another country, I think of how important it is to really work hard and do my best and study what we do,” he says. “Because this is part of showcasing the dignity and talent of our people and an opportunity for other countries to know that they should never underestimate Filipino talent.”
In addition to scheduled participation in a curated exhibition for the 50th anniversary of PH-SG bilateral relations 2019, Ejem is also set to participate in an inaugural group show in Arte Betina on July 23.