“Arbitrary”, or as one would define, “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system”. Summertime is well known to the season of festivals; whether it be music, street art, graffiti, dance, sports or food oriented. Festival and event organizers are presented with two mains options: invite only or open for a paid registration. When there’s a registration process, people who wish to participate pay a registration fee and hop le tour est joué. Perhaps less artists or athletes feel left out in that process. On the other hand, when the event or project is invite only and based on god knows what criteria, that’s when questions are raised and you get bummed out artists.
Art being subjective, two people can have completely opposing views regarding the same work. For instance, one could make an argument that Basquiat’s work is overrated, while another could argue the American has more than earned his name among the greats. Is there someone creating better art than Basquiat’s, regardless of their notoriety or rather lack of notoriety? Probably. In art, no one is scoring hoops or goals nor is anyone keeping score. In that sense, how to determine which artists is most deserving when deciding who’ll be featured in events or festivals? It’s nearly impossible, as each and every one of us sees art through different eyes. To be completely honest, I believe it would be much healthier for the arts community if lesser-known artists had an easier time gaining exposure rather than only seeing the same artists over and over. However, it’s a hard and competitive world, the arts world.
I wish all could have the same opportunities to participate in different projects, as utopian as it sounds. However, then again, when you ask me how I choose the featured Crossing borders artists, I can only answer by “it’s usually completely arbitrary…” And so without further words of mine, I leave you to my interview with Angge Lorente, an incredible visual artist from the Philippines, who gladly took the time to answer my questions about her, her work and her take on the scene where she’s from.
[Fresh Paint]: Hi Angge! Could you start off by telling me a bit about your personal and educational background?
[Ange Lorente]: I am Angelica Lorente or Angge, as I call myself, although there is no special meaning (laughs). I studied art and my major was advertising. I am a product of the streets, of this beautiful hell called Manila. As an art student, I was already painting when the streets introduced themselves to me. That’s why I got into street art. I always paint with my partner Crist Espiritu (DOZE Collective) and we call ourselves GLITCH GLITCH.
[FP]: I understand the Filipino street art scene is quite young, though very vibrant and colourful. What potential (personal reasons, purely aesthetic, social and political critique, etc) did you see in street art for you to stick with this type of art?
[AL]: I have always loved the streets for some reason. It’s very raw and unpredictable and that’s what I love about it. It’s also challenging since many factors affect my art on the streets, (the texture of the wall I might be working on, how would people react to it, the kind of people I encounter when painting…). The element of surprise keeps it fun and exciting.
[FP]: As a woman artist in a fairly new scene, how receptive are male artists to women in street art? Are there many female artists in Manila?
[AL]: I think gender doesn’t count here when it comes to street art. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the quality of your work whether your fellow artists and the people like it or not. Yes, there are very few female artists here, I know some of them just by name, but I haven’t painted with them… How many? You can all count them on the fingers of one hand.
[FP]: Do you recall your first street painting experience?
[AL]: Yeah. My first street painting experience was in October 2012, it was a demolished place near my partner Crist’s house here in Parañaque city and it was a shit hole (laughs). It was very dirty; I mean that whole abandoned lot was basically a toilet for the homeless. People threw garbage there, and some of the meth heads would do their thing there. It was crazy and hell it was smelly too. Broken glasses and shit everywhere. We painted there, did a few pieces and managed to come out unharmed and in one piece (laughs)!
[FP]: What’s it like to basically ‘decorate’ your daily environment?
[AL]: Fun I would say. What I always liked about it is the act of giving life to the walls and everyday commuters. Traffic is very bad here and people riding jeepneys would just stare at your work. At least we give them something nice to look at. I mean normal people here can’t go to galleries to look at paintings. For me, the street is a public gallery where everyone can see and appreciate art.
[FP]: What process do you go through when picking a location for a new piece?
[AL]: It always depends. We like backgrounds, textures and locations that we find interesting. I mostly enjoy the mossy walls near dirty rivers or what we call here “estero”. We don’t care how small it is, how shitty it is or how bad the smell is.
[FP]: Your murals often depict characters, although these characters always differentiate themselves by the looks in their eyes. Why is it so important for you to put a focus on what your character’s eyes have to say?
[AL]: My partner and I like people watching. For me, these characters signify me in different personas as an observer that’s why I always tend to focus on the eyes. I observe the surroundings along the people with it. I love how eyes project the feelings of a person; they have a powerful impact.
[FP]: How would you personally differentiate and define graffiti and street art? Where do you draw a line with vandalism?
[AL]: Street art and Graffiti are different disciplines and have different rules. In my book, street art requires knowledge in composition, colours and other stuff that I also consider when I am painting on a canvas. Graffiti has become more of a sport nowadays… getting up and getting owned up. Art is made to communicate and to create beauty. Vandalism is done to destroy.
[FP]: Street art often plays on the public sphere definition and to whom the streets belong. What freedom do street artists have in Manila?
[AL]: I don’t know how I can compare it to other places but here in Manila it is harder to put up street pieces since you can get in trouble easily. It’s also easy to get out of it when you have money, but what if you don’t? The basic option that you have is legal walls in which you have to ask for permission from the owner and some of them are a bit sketchy with that.
[FP]: Are there any controversies with authorities or residents and property owners?
[AL]: Yeah, there always has to be one especially here in a place where street art is not yet totally accepted and appreciated by the majority. Sometimes when we are already there painting, some people would say something like “Hey, what you’re doing is vandalism right?” and we would go and make excuses like “Oh this is called street art, we are art students and this one’s for a project.” Then we’ll explain to them how it would look like when it’s finished and how it differs from vandalism. It also works with the some of the authorities here. You also have to know what kind of people you’re dealing with because some of them just want a little money from you. You have to be very street smart when it comes to those kinds of situations.
[FP]: Patterned after the West, how has street art impacted the urban space in Manila?
[AL]: It depends in which city you are. For example, when you are in the business district, they support street art and they hold events for that type of thing. Some buildings there would have big murals on them and it’s awesome! Totally diminishes the boring side and seriousness of the everyday life. Unlike Manila where we live, it has always been political. They have a policy here where they fine you 5000 PHP or around 100 USD if you are caught painting on the streets. Your street piece would last 2 months max. It would be repainted with the name of the mayor or some politician immediately.
[FP]: In 2013, a project named the Filipino Street Art Project was born. Its goal was to explore the scene in and around Manila, telling the stories of the local artists through various media (documentary, website, blog, etc). How receptive are you to those kinds of projects?
[AL]: In every project of the sort, there will always be people who are going to be left out.
[FP]: Are there any local festivals around for you to showcase some work? If so, to what extent is the city implicated in the process?
[AL]: I don’t know actually… When it comes to projects here, people with big names are the ones who get to show their work. It has always been kind of political in a way. You always have to stick with a group or something. I was never like that.
[FP]: What has been your favourite location to paint at? Why?
[AL]: The squatter’s area (the place full of illegal settlers). It’s always been weird how people there are much more appreciative of my work. There’s always this hype when you are doing a piece in that type of place. It’s something new to them but they accept it without questions. They even help you out with stuff like getting water for liquid paint and all. The experience there is always awesome. I also like demolished walls, you never know what you’re gonna get!
[FP]: What are some upcoming projects of yours?
[AL]: I have a project with Midnice Gallery in Thailand this coming December. I will be painting walls there to celebrate the gallery’s anniversary. I am also finishing a bunch of murals in SEA Training Facility, a privately owned skate park here in Manila. For now, I will continue to paint on canvas and walls, join exhibits, save some cash, travel and paint in different parts of the world. Montreal will be one of those places for sure.
© All pictures courtesy of Angge Lorente.
Angge Lorente is a visual artist from the Philippines. Product of the streets, as she likes to say, she paints with her partner Crist Espiritu from DOZE Collective and call themselves GLITCH GLITCH. With a Fine Arts baccalaureate and a major in advertising, Angge extends her artistic process onto the street in order to reach a greater audience. Her paintings are always very detailed and realistic, making the final result nearly photo-realistic. She also does studio projects, keeping the same compelling, striking and intriguing touch to her art. Most of her art can be found on her Tumblr, another way to reach out to the world.