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Tracing the contours of Filipino identity

Melissa Yeung-Yap looks to the past, present, and future as she celebrates her decade-long career in the arts

Working with fellow artisans is not new to visual artist Melissa Yeung-Yap. Her art has always been a tool to share the stories of the Philippines. And with her creative visions and the skilled hands of Filipino craftsmen, she was able to produce collections that capture the distinct history and heritage of the country. As she marks her 10th year in the industry, her mission in championing indigenous art continues with an exhibit that looks to the past, present, and future.

Melissa Yeung-Yap and her ‘Interwoven II’ piece 

Dubbed “10 10 10,” the exhibit features Melissa’s modern Filipino art aesthetic through an array of paintings and sculptures. To bring it to life, she worked with 10 different indigenous and artisan communities from all over the Philippines, a field researcher, and a social entrepreneur, making it a grand showcase of the vibrant Filipino culture that can be viewed both IRL and URL.

“It’s different from my past exhibits because it’s the first time I worked with 10 different communities in one show. Previously, I just work with one to three communities,” Melissa tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “The exhibit depicts the past (indigenous crafts) present (paintings and sculptures) and future (NFT, augmented reality, and Web3 art). It’s extra challenging but very fulfilling. This show is dedicated to the 10 Philippine artisan communities I’m collaborating with.”

‘Pegasaur,’ ‘Metal Sculpture,’ and ‘Pentapus’ sculptures 

In creating art, Melissa is usually guided by pre-colonial/indigenous Philippine artistry. Her work starts with meeting the community and looking at their material. Being immersed in the community is a big part of her creative process. Not only does it help her form a great connection with them, it also gives her a deeper understanding and appreciation of their craft. This stage sparks a lot of ideas in her head and heart, which eventually get translated by her hands.

It took over a year to make “10 10 10” into a reality, with the process involving a lot of back-and-forth with the artisans. Local crafts like filigree and tambourine jewelry, wood carvings, capiz-work on windows, and indigenous textiles like t’nalak, yakan, and piña weaves, among others, are present in the exhibit. They are the perfect complement to Melissa’s paintings and sculptures, which aims to “honor our rich tradition, energize the imagination of audiences, and trace the contours of the Filipino identity.”

‘Bintana – Araw/Gabi’ 

Melissa’s pieces such as Calm and Wonder and Interwoven II present her idyllic floral paintings with handwoven yakan and piña fabrics while her resin sculptures like the Pentapus and Pegasaur feature design elements hailed from the T’boli tribe. One of her favorite creations is the Bintana – Araw/Gabi, a capiz window, much like the one seen on ancestral houses, hiding a painting of tropical blooms decorated with t’nalak and abaca textiles.

“It’s my first time to work with the capiz windows,” Melissa says. “The painting transforms from day (bright Philippine flowers painted on capiz) to night (dark abstract patterns with t’nalak), depending on the position of the window panes.”

She also collaborated with contemporary artists in the form of Filipino animators for the exhibit. These creatives turned her t’nalak origami fish and butterflies into an augmented reality NFT, offering an interactive digital art experience to the audience.

‘Interwoven I’ and ‘Calm and Wonder’ 

Art, for Melissa, is an imprint of one’s mind, heart, and soul onto a tangible medium. It is her way of communicating something within her that can be expressed beyond words. By working with fellow artists, she was able to present more than just her journey in the arts but also the life of the people who keep the country’s age-old crafts alive.

“[My goal is] to use my art as a platform for communities that I love,” the artist muses. “By incorporating their various products into my work, the audience is able to appreciate and see the relevance of our very own artistry in a different light. Plus, it also opens a new avenue for them to financially sustain their craft-making for their families.”

Melissa also aspires to continually expand the impact of art on communities. “I want them to be seen, heard, and appreciated by more people not just in the Philippines but in other countries also. I’m currently planning my exhibits in various countries next year like Japan and Italy.”

Melissa Yeung-Yap’s “10 10 10” ran at ArtistSpace located on the ground level of Ayala Museum Annex, Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati City.

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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