Murals in Iloilo City: There is so much beauty in the City of Love. Iloilo, aside from its rapid economic development, is still the Iloilo lined with preserved heritage sites, imminent Ilonggo culture, and the undying patronage of everything local – be it locally-grown talents or products. Apart from that, Iloilo is still the Iloilo that has high regard for artistry – grandiose architecture, cultural festivals, visual arts, photography, literature, and so much more.
Indeed, there is so much beauty in the City of Love. With reference to artistry, comes the emergence of today’s contemporary mural art. Walls of establishments have been decorated with surreal and abstract representations – of modern Ilonggo and of life in general. The Shops at Atria Park District, Robinsons Place Iloilo, and Iloilo River Esplanade are just some of the places with breathtaking murals painted on the walls.
Painting the history of Ilonggos on the walls of Iloilo. In comparison to the most notable murals made in different places around the world, murals have always been entwined with culture. A mural is not just an aesthetic artwork but an illustrational narrative of the life lived in that era. Today’s contemporary art is tomorrow’s version of the past that will always be worth discovering, studying, and appreciating.
Should mural art be encouraged? By all means, yes. We took the liberty of interviewing Kristoffer Brasileňo, a distinguished Ilonggo artist and the name behind some of the inspiring street murals made in the City of Love, regarding his thoughts on encouraging and popularizing mural art.
First off, how is mural art here in Iloilo?
The culture of street art and mural art in Iloilo is still in its formative stage. For the longest time, the only exposure of Ilonggos to murals come in the form of paintings in the walls of schools and universities and the occasional backdrop of stage plays and street performances. During the popularity of street art and graffiti in USA and Manila around 2004 onwards, several individuals who had internet access and copies of magazines like Juxtapoz and Hi-Fructose were inspired to create word and letter-based paintings on public walls using aerosol and household paint.
All over the province, there are individual artists who would create murals in private domiciles and companies such as resorts or research facilities like Seafdec which was headed by Andrea Bagarinao. Around 2011, my personal experience with street art began when I, together with a friend, made a large portrait of a female figure in wall in my cousin’s house in Janiuay. I believe this was the beginning of image-based or figurative style of street art in Iloilo. Throughout my days as a student at the University of San Agustin College of Fine Arts, we would accept large scale projects such as the chalk art drawing in SM City parking area, the USA hallways, cafeteria and perimeter walls. Eventually, my friends started to create murals on their own. They filled an alley inside Aurora Subdivision with different types of figure-based murals. They would eventually take part in an international project of New York-based French Artist called JR to put up wheat-paste based posters in Muelle Leone.
Around 2015, the city government of Iloilo in cooperation with Iloilo Visual Arts Collective, an artists’ organization that I have been a president of from 2015-2017, organized the largest street art/public art event at Esplanade called Arte sa Kalye. Several barangays in Iloilo copied the event in their own locations afterwards. On November 2016, Atria Parks District in collaboration with VIVA Econ Organization Iloilo, Inc. created four large scale murals all over the complex of Atria. It was sponsored together with Ayala Land, Avida and Boysen. Last April, an event called Artivism was organized by artists Marrz Capanang and Kristine Buenavista in collaboration with Robinsons and British Council. It filled a 100-foot stretch of walls with black and white themed murals on the concept of social media and social impact. There are also lateral movements from other groups that I am not fully aware of. Photo below: mural artworks from Arte sa Kalye at the Iloilo River Esplanade.
Do you intend to do more mural artwork? If so, what are the target locations?
Yes. I am inspired by the murals in other parts of the world as I have seen from social media and the internet. There are so many blank walls all over the city that I have scouted for all the time. The streets of Calle Real and Muele Leone provide interesting texture and historical value. Several new walls around Esplanade are perfect for tourism and promotion of themes and other advocacies. The city is still a blank canvas and we must always keep a good example in order for street art and murals to more acceptable and respected by the masses. Photo below: mural art at Atria Park District.
If a mural art festival will take place here in Iloilo, what would be the activities?
A mural festival would be firstly focused on creating well-curated murals in select locations all over the city. When I say curated, I mean to say that each design is carefully deliberated and composed. Each mural must consider the context of the surrounding areas and the historical values of any given space. The movements must be well directed and organized. Alongside the mural-making, we could hold exhibitions in galleries of large-scale, mural-like paintings on canvas for those who are more comfortable with this kind of medium. We can also hold artists residencies where artists can occupy an abandoned building and transform it into a masterpiece using paints and aerosol. We can hold competitions, demonstrations, workshops, talks, and art exchanges. The possibilities are endless.
And lastly, why popularize street art and a mural art festival here?
I believe it is human nature to aspire to become popular and it would spread to their individual interests like, for example, street art or classic car models. An artist paints with the purpose to communicate to a viewer visually, the same time a writer to a reader. Popularizing something can also generate promotion and attention to whatever an artist intends to communicate. An artist may promote his or herself with the talents they acquired through street art, ultimately garnering projects and commissions afterward or the artist may use street art as a medium to promote advocacies or opinions about current events or politics.
Street art can also introduce visual art and fine arts to the masses that do not often come to museums or exhibitions. It is in a way, taking the gallery out into the streets. Street art can become a tourist attraction and a location where tourists can take selfies. Street art can easily transform a blank wall into a masterpiece that can influence and inspire a viewer. And lastly, several artists in the subculture of street art do street art for street cred and for bragging rights. It is a way of claiming territory over a place or location. Photo below: mural art at Atria Park District.
Kristoffer Brasileňo is affiliated with the Iloilo Visual Arts Collective as president from 2015-2017. He is currently a member and is back on doing personal projects. He is likewise affiliated with VIVA ExCon Organization Iloilo, Inc. with the main purpose of organizing events and conferences about art in Iloilo. As of the moment, Kris operates with a few close friends with street art projects. Notable artists behind art murals are: Marrz Capanang, Ronnyl Bulahan, Kinno Florentino, Andrea Bagarinao, among others.