«I want to portray the daily battles of an artist«
Bong Delfin is a Filipino artist based in Madrid. He quit his job as an industrial engineer to devote himself to art, moving from the Philippines to Denmark to find a better professional cultural environment. Being elected Artist of the Year at the Kerteminde Art Week (Denmark) confirmed his commitment to art and now his work is being exhibited in contemporary art galleries in Denmark, Spain, the United States and the Philippines. Flamantes – an art book published by Hago Cosas – which includes his artwork has triggered an interest for his oeuvre in our country and beyond.
His work, formally very dense, mixes traditional printing techniques with elements of pop and punk rock culture, plus references to classical and religious art as well as symbols from Filipino culture. A work that will not leave you indifferent from an artist with an increasing presence in international contemporary art.
You have a formal education in Industrial Engineering from the Philippines and you worked professionally in it but decided to quit for Art, what happened?
It was late when I realized what my calling and bliss in life are. From an early age I had huge interest in art but due to the economic situation and life quality in the Philippines, I wasn’t given much exposure, opportunities and motivation to push through my love for art. I chose Industrial Engineering instead because it was a timely career to get a decent job and make a living during that time.
«It was late when I realized what my calling and bliss in life are»
– You moved to Denmark where you had many solo and group exhibitions in Art galleries, how was your stay there?
Living in Denmark was amazing, I love living there. Living quality is very high and it’s a great country to get inspired as an artist. It was in there where I started to paint and later on went to study art, and had several exhibitions. I just moved out due to visa issues and at the same time taking the opportunity to explore the European Art scene by living in different countries and further pursue my artistic endeavors.
– And over there you were elected Artist of the Year for the Kerteminde International Art Festival -now it’s called Art Week Kerteminde-, what did this mean to you?
It was the beginning of all this craziness. After being given recognition as Artist of the Year I took the life-changing decision to pursue my interest in art. It meant a lot to me, the inspiration and confidence were overwhelming.
«After being given recognition as Artist of the Year I took the life-changing decision to pursue my interest in art»
– You also lived in Berlin and later you settled in Madrid. How were these changes for you and how do you feel now in Madrid?
During my Denmark stint I was also in and out of Berlin, hoping to make a good transition. But for me having a Philippine passport (a third world country) it’s not easy to secure a longer visa. Berlin was a great experience, my works were somehow influenced by the German expressionism during that time. I’m glad I’m in Madrid now, it’s also easier to secure a longer visa. I’ll just take advantage of my stay by exploring Spanish Art and culture. My Filipino ancestors won gold medals in the 1884 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts over here in the past, I will try to follow their footsteps and hopefully make my own name here, then we’ll see what happens in the near future.
I want to give special thanks to my patron Andreina Rojas de Betancourt that was an important support for me in this period in Spain
«My Filipino ancestors won gold medals in the Exposición Nacional over here in the past, I will try to follow their footsteps and hopefully make my own name here»
– In your work you develop an old technique called Hydrodeepism, what does it consist in and how did you acquaint yourself with it?
«Hydrodeepism» (hydro-deep-ism) is a personal ideology, artistic method and a term I conceived from the term «hydro dipping», a traditional technique of printmaking which is commonly called «marbling», «swirling», «water transfer», etc. This method was used for thousands of years, it was termed «Suminagashi» in Japan and «Ebru» in Turkey. Regardless of the terminology used, the basic idea is dropping the special paint or pigment on the surface of the water and transferring the aqueous surface design or carefully manipulated patterns onto paper or any other material by the process of dipping.
Whilst it is commonly used for its unique monotype print, aesthetic and decorative appeal my interest is only in exploring the ¨spontaniety and randomness¨ of the output. My objective is to subvert the old, accessible and almost factory-made practice into something high Art and contemporary.The subversion of the technique gave me a unique style distinct from a painting or a printing. Basically, my body of works in this series were done by the contrasting integration of the different techniques like hydro dipping, stenciling, collaging, taping and brush works, and what you see in the output is the result of my interoggation on the limits of what is possible in painting and printing, and my own particular technique. It is my idea of portraying the daily constraining battles a 21st century artist has to hold in order to create and develop artistic ways or ideals that may best represent his time.
«The «hydro dipping» is my idea of portraying the daily constraining battles a 21st century artist has to hold in order to create and develop artistic ways or ideals that may best represent his time»
– Your oeuvre is aesthetically quite dense, how is your working process?
Actually there is quite a bit of a struggle right now in my technique and process. Due to the properties of the different materials that I am using and the technique, I had hard time balancing the whole piece (in terms of composition, toning, etc.). But I took the challenge and accept the flaws/accidents as part of my style/aesthetic.
Apparently I am still on the experimental stage of my practice, but I think my works are getting matured and confident. Sometimes it is also fun and interesting not knowing how to begin (and finish) the process, for if I already knew what I am arriving at I could get bored and lose any interest in it.
«Sometimes it is also fun and interesting not knowing how to begin (and finish) the process, for if I already knew what I am arriving at I could get bored and lose any interest in it»
– In your canvases there are ironic and critical hints to the Art world, how do you like the current state of contemporary art?
Yes, sort of like a personal commentary to the current state of the Art world, my love-hate relationship with the system. But it is what it is. I’ll do what I have to.
– Your work was selected for Flamantes –an art book published by Hago Cosas, what does this publication mean to you?
It was an amazing project by Hago Cosas and it meant a lot to me. It opens wider opportunities to us young artists. I was contacted by several galleries such as those like Galería Crisolart in Barcelona and others I’m collaborating in New York because of it.
«It was an amazing project by Hago Cosas and it meant a lot to me. It opens wider opportunities to us young artists»
– In Madrid you showcased at the Santana Art Gallery and at the Embassy of the Philippines, how was the public reception?
It was great. Exhibiting some of my oeuvre for the first time here in Madrid. We had good reviews about the exhibitions and my works were well accepted by spanish audience.
– Your work has also been selected for exhibition at the Florence Biennial of 2019. How are you approaching this presentation?
It’s an honor and a great opportunity for me to be selected. I am working on a huge piece in collaboration with a photographer from my region in Mindanao, Philippines. The piece is all about the depiction of the “Battle of Marawi”. It was a five-month-long armed conflict in Marawi, Lanao del Sur that started on 23rd May 2017, between Philippine government and militants affiliated with the ISIS, including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups. The battle became the longest urban battle in the modern history of the Philippines.
«I am working on a huge piece in collaboration with a photographer from my region in Mindanao, Philippines. The piece is all about the depiction of the “Battle of Marawi”. (…) The battle became the longest urban battle in the modern history of the Philippines»
– You are showcasing regularly in the Philippines. How is the current situation of southern Filipino artists and how do you collaborate with them?
I haven’t been home for more than 6 years but lately I’ve been in touch with galleries and some collectives in the Philippines. I sent works for group exhibitions and soon I’ll have my solo exhibition in one of the major galleries there. I am also brewing on boosting the art scene and helping the local artists in my region. Dream Weaver Project is a collective of local artists and a contemporary Art platform based in southern Mindanao, Philippines. Due to our geographical location, political conflicts and economic situation, we were left out in terms of opportunities. The Art scene (major galleries, events, and big Art schools) were only focused in the capital Manila and other big cities. I had my first experience with an Art museum only when I came to Denmark six years ago, since then I decided to be an artist.
«I am also brewing on boosting the art scene and helping the local artists in my region»
– You are also quite attached to rock, punk and skateboard cultures. What projects are you working on in that area?
Yes, my early artistic background was influenced by the DIY culture of punk rock and skateboarding. When I was in high school and college I used to make designs and T-shirt silkscreen printing (serigraphy). It helped me earn money to finish my engineering degree. When I started painting I couldn’t help myself not to incorporate these early influences in my works. Apart from painting I am developing this In Art we Trash project, a counterculture propaganda/brand cliche in line with art and clothing.
«I am developing this “In Art we Trash” thing, a counterculture propaganda/brand cliche in line with art and clothing»
– How is your free time?
When I’m not in the studio painting I spent most of my time educating myself, reading, looking for information about art, even in my free time. Since I decided to be an artist very late a feeling of urgency to know everything as soon as possible has grown on me. Other than that I hang out with my girlfriend and my friends in the studio and/or play a lot of football and basketball.
– A wish you would like to come true
I wish to leave the universe a decent legacy through my art and also as a great human being, it is good enough for me.
«I wish to leave the universe a decent legacy through my art and also as a great human being, it is good enough for me»