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Progress through Education
Carlos V. Francisco
■Year 1964
■Medium oil on canvas
■Size (cm)
This work was created as a mural for a Manila textbook publishing firm and it depicts the arrival and spread of education in the Philippines, dramatizing the importance of education. The lower left part of the painting shows the Malay people who came to the islands in antiquity, and their sultan points to a Catholic priest from the period of Spanish occupation who is shown blessing a couple. The upper left depicts Christian missionaries sent during the American occupation of the islands. In the center of the canvas, the father of the modern Philippine independence movement, Jose Rizal, is shown with his mother, learning how to read and write. The layering of this teaching scene with a large background figure resembling Christ on the Cross suggests the tragic fate of this national hero. The edges of the canvas are filled with the spirits of the dead, images of ignorance and superstitions, all being banished by the spread of education. Francisco was nationally famous for large works on the history of the Philippines, including the murals in the Manila City Hall, and his work brought a new dimension to the fields of mural and history painting.
The Altar of the Dark Side of Spain
Roberto Feleo
■Year 1985
■Medium acrylic and sawdust on wood
■Size (cm)
In the Philippines, deeply influenced by foreign cultures given its colonization by Spain and other nations, there is a strong movement asking what Filipino culture is, and a desire amongst Filipinos to recount their own history in their own way. In his works, Roberto Feleo borrows the imagery of the indigenous people of the Philippines who were called the Pintado, Spanish for painted people by early Spanish settlers because of their full body tattooing. Using these figures, Feleo recounts the history of his land through the tales of Pintado uprisings. This large, puzzling work uses the form of a Christian altar painting, a format familiar from the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, and shows how the white-skinned god holds the power of life and death over the non-white races. At the same time, the figures in the lowest register are a form of pre-human, and their progress up through the ranks of colored races and finally to the level of the white race can be seen as a parody of formal hierarchies.
D.H. (Domestic Helper)
Elmer Borlongan
■Year 1993
■Medium acrylic on canvas
■Size (cm)
Women with their faces partially obscured and blurred. These women seated in chairs reminiscent of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, arranged before the garden of a wealthy home, appear as if all communication, and particularly any retort, is forbidden. With the Philippines' colonial period in the past, Filipina women moved overseas to support family earnings with money saved from their work in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, and the Middle East. Such women are said to be abused by their employers in these foreign lands. This painting was created from the memories of an actual incident, and it provides an honest commentary on women's rights, and the mistreatment of disempowered Filipinas, in the economic power dynamically among Southeast Asian countries. Elmer Borlongan is a part of the new generation of Filipino painters addressing the pain and struggle of ordinary people living with immense burdens amidst society's incongruities.
Paradise Open to All
Manuel Ocampo
■Year 1994
■Medium acrylic and collage on canvas
■Size (cm)
Manuel Ocampo frequently adopts themes and styles of Catholic art which took roots in the Philippines under Spanish colonization, with depicting methods similar to graffiti or like vulgar comics of America. Instead of saints or scenes of salvation, however, he paints pictures of the hell in which negative historical legacies such as colonialism and racial discrimination are grotesquely mixed with the mass culture of contemporary citys. The odious cockroach acting as Jesus Christ standing in the center, the emblem of the eagle and the swastika reminding us of the Nazis, and drinking - these immoral images all appeal for the salvation of 'all creatures', yet they in fact expose the power and violence of European culture which continues to reject immigrants and to dominate the Third World. His work goes beyond treating issues of specific regions or cultures, and can be described as an epitome of the present-day multi-cultural world where different cultures must co-exist even in confrontation.
Myths of Creation and Destruction I
Agnes Arellano
■Year 1987
■Medium cold-cast marble, unhanled rice, crushed marble, wood
■Size (cm)
Carcass-Cornucopia/above(Music for Making the Sun Rise/below)  -187(15)×130(734)×80(87)
The work "Myths of Creation and Destruction I" is divided into two parts. 'Carcass-Cornucopia' shows <The First Bovine>, whose explosion created the universe, hanging upside down in a form reminiscent of Rembrandt's famous painting. The god of rice, Bulul, looks out from the carcass, providing eternal protection for the harvest. The dead skulls at the feet of this god are arranged in musical notation fashion along a musical staff, setting up the tune for 'Music for Making the Sun Rise.' It is as if the form of the music will lead to the birth of new life. According to Arellano, it is brutal tales colored with violence, destruction, and death which actually support the images of birth and re-birth. Birth atones for destruction, just as re-birth atones for death. The artist has brought together the mythologies of the world, whether the Greek cornucopia or a Filipino folk god, as she weaves yet new myths of creation and destruction.
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