By SARA GRACE C. FOJAS
Images by PINGGOT ZULUETA
As a child, Kristone Capistrano had discovered the immense capacity of the human hand. If given the right tool, it can change the world. For Kristone, this tool is charcoal and paper.
“I am keenly interested in the capacity of the human hand to sustain and generate life, both in the dual area of craftsmanship and livelihood, and also through the cyclical means by which we are ‘delivered’ into the world by the hands of nurses and midwives,” says the artist who shuttles between Sydney and Manila. “As infants, we are pulled into the world through human hands. While as adults, it is through our hands—and our work—that we sustain ourselves.”
With this, he committed himself to traditional methods of creating art, using his hands to tell stories and make them come to life. “In a world of increasing automation, I am fascinated by those still invested in the manual, the tactile, and the handmade,” he says.
In his first solo exhibit in the Philippines, “Out of Depths,” which runs until Oct. 31 at the Art Cube Gallery in Makati City, he put emphasis on the human hand as a central vehicle by which new life and new work are carried in the world. The exhibit consists of three large-scale charcoal images of newborn infants along with four medium-scale portraits of simple menial “streetworkers” he interviewed on the streets of Manila and Olongapo.
It is evident in his works that Kristone is sensitive to the human dilemma and the struggles of everyday life. This is seen in the vivid facial expressions and the overall atmosphere seen in his portraits, like the calmness surrounding the newborn baby in Search Me, the tired smile of the Sampaguita Vendor, Quiapo, and the eyes weary from the day’s toil of the Labourer, Poblacion.
Perhaps this is due to what he experienced while on a hiatus between 2012 and 2017. He traveled the world, volunteered for various non-government agencies and served the poor. He spent two years of discerning as a novice monk, completed three of the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimages in Spain, as well as the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage track in Japan.
“My style is quite unique internationally. As most exclusively use oil, it is rare to find contemporary artists today using charcoal on such large-scale drawings,” says Kristone. “I would say that I work within the style of figurative realism. I collect images that move and inspire me, whether from my own photographs from friends or from the Internet. Sometimes, I see an image that really strikes me—an image that I think, really needs to be seen—and I know that it’s worth drawing.”
Kristone always loved drawing as a kid. Many would identify him as the student who would always sketch and draw in his notebooks. “I learned how to draw light from the French artist Edgar Degas, darkness from the etchings of the Spanish artist Franciso Goya, and tenderness from the German artist Kathe Kollwitz,” says the 32-year-old Kristone. “My selection of portrait subjects is decided intuitively based on the faces that resonate with me on some emotional, intellectual, or anecdotal levels. Subjects with a sense of communicable pathos always immediately capture my eyes, as do surfaces that emphasize the beauty and fragility of the human person: the tender contours of a child’s forehead, the inescapable folds of a grandmother’s neck, the glassy roundness of the human eye.”
This keenness to details enabled him to bag various awards such as the People’s Choice Award at the Musswellbrook Art Prize in 2018, the Local Artist Prize, and the People’s Choice Award at the Blacktown City Art Prize, and Royal South Australian Arts Society Portrait Biennale in 2017. In 2011, he was also hailed with the Black Swan Portrait Prize award. Recently, he was selected as a finalist for the 2019 Dobell Drawing prize.
Kristone has also been exhibited across Australia, where solo exhibitions at Edge Gallery and Crowther Contemporary, as well as group shows at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Center (Hong Kong), The Art Space Gallery (Singapore), and Mono8 Gallery (Manila). Earlier this year, his works were at the Ayala Harbor Point in Olongapo City. .
Next year, Kristone will be at the Terra Infirma Group Exhibit Blacktown Arts Center in Sydney and Call Time Group Exhibit in the Philippines. He will also have a solo exhibition entitled “Behold the Face” at Sheen Center Art Gallery, New York City.
With this list of accolades, Kristone has gone a long way with his charcoal and paper, but with talented hands like his that can capture your emotions using big drawings, there is so much more in him that the world has yet to see. “I think an artist’s work never really evolves as much as it deepens and strengthens in clarity. We all have themes that really fascinate us and sometimes it would take a whole lifetime to explore this. Give me a wall, paper, and some charcoal, and I will make you art,” he ends.
‘Out of Depths’ runs until Oct. 31 at the Art Cube Gallery, Makati City.