Meet The Only Filipino Artist Exhibiting in Art Vancouver 2019
Vin Quilop is a 25-year-old who paints the ‘beauty and grit’ of Manila in watercolor.
Photo by Vin Quilop
In Lino Brocka’s Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in The Claws Of Light), the capital of the Philippines is cast in a harsh light: the characters, both seen as individual persons and archetypes of the everyman and woman, are caught in a web of social injustice and poverty. It’s dark, gritty, and undoubtedly real to a fault.
Set in the ‘70s, the film’s realistic take on life in Manila is still true today, including the city as a living, breathing entity. No matter how powerfully dark Manila gets, you see it as a bustling metropolis, rife with the people who traverse its streets everyday. The same breath of life lives in Vincent Kristian Quilop’s watercolor paintings of Manila, more than forty years after the film’s setting.
Entitled “In Between Manila,” Vin’s artwork explores Manila’s architecture marvels—from heritage sites to Art Deco buildings—with a charged sense of excitement. For Filipinos familiar with these landmarks, the paintings offer a view that embraces its grit and chaos as part of its charm. For those who haven’t ventured into the city yet, it’s a proper introduction: Vincent aims to offer a change of perspective, of looking at Manila through a different lens far removed from the tourist-friendly and exotic.
VICE spoke to Vin before he headed out to Vancouver, where he is the only Filipino invited to exhibit his work for Art Vancouver 2019.
VICE: What about Manila do you see that you want other people to see in your work?
Vin: Manila has always been an "acquired taste" for me. It's not for everyone, that's for sure. But what's amiss for me is the opportunity our capital would've been, given the proper care and attention from its officials (and us, too!).
See, when foreigners think of the Philippines, almost instantly, they think of our world-class beaches, [and] beautiful provinces. Manila is often overlooked.
This is because of the reputation it has attained—and they're not wrong. We're also at fault in this. Manila is chaotic, traffic is hell, trash isn't properly disposed. But when you look deeply into it, and realize the rich heritage it holds, the story of the locals/people in it, Manila is (and could be more) lovely. I want people to see that in my "reimagining" of our capital.
What are some misconceptions that you want to clarify about Manila and the Philippines in general? What are some spots that, to you, are underrated or overrated?
I think one misconception would be that Manila has "nothing to offer.” Manila is hard to live in. It's not tourist-friendly. But this is our capital. What it offers is its great history—how it stands strong until now (given all the chaos of this political climate and the people that run it). The beauty is in the stories and the heritage it holds.
Our beaches and provinces are beautiful—but some of them could get tiring and overrated at times. Manila itself is underrated due to the fact that it's not tourist-friendly. Even some of us Filipinos aren't familiar with the textures and the heritage it holds. There are a lot of hidden gems amid this chaotic capital—the biggest Chinatown (Binondo) in the world alone has a lot of old food joints that are worth trying.
What draws you to watercolor as a medium?
I love travelling and experiencing different cultures. With that, I've always wanted a form of outlet and catharsis that combines my love of travelling and art, hence the use of watercolor in painting on-location sketches. Although water is very difficult to work and control, watercolor is also the most convenient to bring around when travelling.
What made you decide to make postcards of the Philippines for “In Between Manila”?
I've always wanted to portray Manila and the Philippines in my paintings. The juxtaposition of beauty and grit that is rich in the heritage buildings of Manila, is what inspired me to make sketches of it. I have this sort of "love-and-hate" relationship with our country given the political climate, but as they say, love the country, hate the government.
What are your thoughts on being the only Filipino in Art Vancouver 2019?
I'm mostly burdened by this! It's a huge responsibility to be representing the country. But it's also mixed with the feeling of pride and hope that I have for our country. I'm hoping that through my small works, I've given justice to the grit and beauty of Manila and [that it] would at least give a spark to us, the locals (and the government, in extension), and foreigners alike to visit, and most of all, take care of our capital city.
You can follow Vin Quilop on Instagram at @vinquilop .