Sunday, February 28, 2010

POSTVIEW: Escape into MaxBal's Scape

It all started with the gallery owner apologizing to me that he was too busy to respond to my inquiry because one of "his" artists has just won a major art prize in Italy. Well, to be more exact, the artist is the Filipino visual artist Max Balatbat or better known as MaxBal. As for the prize, it is the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Silver Award at the 2009 Florence Biennale.

Fast forward, I flew to the Philippines and visited the gallery not to look at MaxBal's work but instead to view the painting I was inquiring. However, what greeted me in the gallery was "CUPOLA" 6x4ft MaxBal mixed media work, which I immediately investigated.

CUPOLA 6x4ft. mixed media

The architectural and graphic references in his abstract work reminded me of patchworks immediately; especially because for this particular work, indeed some part of it were patches of fabrics. I had some mixed feeling. First and foremost, I have to be practical. I live in Hong Kong and I do not have a lot of spaces for a 6x4ft painting! It is bad enough that I do not have enough walls for all the paintings I already bought and now I am thinking of buying a big one. Second, I was not really taken by it... as simple as that. So I asked if there was anything smaller, and they showed me "ABONG" 4x2ft and 2 others that were 4x3ft and 4x4ft.

ABONG 4x2ft. acrylic on canvas

I usually prefer abstract in bigger dimensions, something about standing "in" it appeals to me. However, "ABONG", the smallest of the three or four (including "CUPOLA"), gave me the sensation of looking at a map. It was suddenly accessible and at the same time gave me a new perspective toward "CUPOLA".

I ended up not buying the painting that I was inquiring, instead I bought "ABONG" and two other paintings by Julio Jose Austria and Melvin Culaba.

The story continues though. When I came back to Hong Kong and looked at the picture of "CUPOLA" in my iphone, an image started to form and suddenly I found a personal connection with the piece. I saw instead Hong Kong. The arch on the upper left looks like the new government building being build at the Tamar site, the protrusions on the upper right look like the ferry piers, the blue band that separates the top and bottom is the Victoria Harbour, while the cross-harbour tunnel is shown vividly connecting the top and bottom.

Yes, I have a wild imagination and yes, I bought the piece. No, I don't know how to bring the painting to Hong Kong and no, I don't know where to put it.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Paying Patron Perspective is about the opinion of somebody on arts. It is a critique from a critic who actually used or thought of using his own money to witness a performance or acquire a piece of work.

Paying Patron Perspective is also about the opinion of a “regular” person. This “regular” person is an outsider looking in and is not working for any art organization. This “regular” person is an office worker (in a publicly-listed fast moving consumer goods company) who saves up money to buy tickets, CD’s, DVD’s and artworks.

So why is the fact that I am “paying” is important? Or why being a “regular” person is important? Well, it is not. I am not saying that my opinion is important, but instead my opinions or perspectives are and will be different. It will be different from those critics who were given free tickets to watch performances or critics who make a living writing about it.

So this is it… the start of PAYING PATRON PERSPECTIVE… Oh, by the way, I would highly recommend that you also read ABOUT SATOSHI so that you know where I am coming from!



I grew up in a children's choir (singing soprano 1) until I became taller than the choir director. I then joined my school's high school choir and later on joined a community youth choir (singing bass 2).

When the community youth choir's choreographer was fired, I was given the chance to choreograph. Knowing how choir voices are arranged and how to maximize vocal production, choir choreography became my forte.

During one of the rehearsals, an art patron spotted me and kindly offered me scholarships for private voice lessons and to one of the country’s foremost ballet school. This, I accepted graciously because they are things that I wanted yet my family can’t provide. My family was not exactly poor, but ever since my father died when I was 12, the family was only able to focus on providing the “basics”.

While I enjoyed my time performing on stage and on TV as a singer, actor and dancer, it is the creative process of choreography, directing and later on songwriting that really appealed to me. As an artist, I was successful enough to support myself through the country’s top university. It also afforded me to have a car with a chauffeur to help me make it to all my engagements! During my time as an artist, I was able to produce and direct critically acclaimed shows in some of the country’s top performing art venues. I also released 3 albums of my compositions and was also featured as one of the country’s most successful youth in a TV special.

Upon graduating university with a degree in communications and arts, pressure to find “real work” started to mount. You see, I come from a very traditional immigrant family in which being an “artist” was deemed “impractical”. In 1994, I joined one of the country’s top conglomerates as a research analyst. How I got the job and why the company hired me is still a mystery. I have a feeling that I was an “experiment”! In fact, one of my colleagues confessed that she and all the other colleagues laid bets that I will not last in the company. They were so wrong.

Being a research analyst made me miss some of my creative outlets though. After all, how much creativity is needed in analyzing stochastic shares or designing sampling frame? This was when I started to study oil painting and pottery. I did not totally disengage myself from performing arts though. Instead, I became a keen and sympathetic audience admiring good performances and spurning poor performances.

In 1996, I accepted a new job from the same company and moved to Hong Kong.
I enjoy going to musicals and operas. I try to pay pilgrimage to Broadway and West End at least once a year. I am also an art collector focusing on Asian oil/acrylic paintings and sculptures. I am a year-round subscriber to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Art Asia Pacific, Asian Art News, World Sculpture News, Gramophone and BBC Music. I am also a big fan of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, Art HK, Macau International Music Festival and METLive in Hong Kong.