When you think of the landscapes of your favorite fantasy stories - maybe Middle Earth of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, or the Kingdom of Stormhold in Neil Gaiman's Stardust - do you imagine it to be a fantastically detailed surreal backdrop to a grand and sweeping epic? World building is as much a part of the narrative process as planning out the plot, or creating character profiles. It's a highly visual endeavour, and requires attention to every facet it is composed of.
This sort of fantasy world-building is the basis of Rom Villaseran's visual art practice. Since his first exhibition at Big Sky Mind in 2002, Villaseran's paintings have been influenced by the landscapes of the fantasy novels he read as a high school student. The artist visualizes these stories through a technique that uses a high-level of minute detail. In the years since that first exhibition, Villaseran's practice has expanded that idea, while still retaining a high-degree of imaginative details within his figurations.
This approach is perhaps linked to the artist's experience as a graphics designer throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, creating some of the most haunting album covers in the country for a variety of OPM acts, from indie band Kjwan to alt rockers Wolfgang and Greyhoundz. However, Villaseran's foundation is still his adherance to narrative. Growing up with the stories of Tolkein and Neil Gaiman, Villaseran uses an organic palette that largely utilizes the literary technique of metaphor. His paintings deal with subjects such as the cycle of decay and rebirth, despair, and the hallucinogenic qualities of dreams. Villaseran uses a neo-surrealist aesthetic approach that manages to create a dream-like ambiance without the resulting haze.
Strewn throughout Villaseran's oeuvre are details - some glaring, others so fine as to require a magnifying glass - and the resulting cacophony is both lavish and subdued. Credit this, perhaps, to the artist's incredible grasp of technique, which is highlighted by the fact that the artist favors the water-based medium of acrylic. This combination of technique and vision allows Villaseran to explore the "inner world" of hallucinogenic space.
Thoroughly representative of Villaseran's practice is "Raising Heirs," a landscape that resembles a desert that is comprised of jellyfish. At the center of this landscape is a rocky outpost in the shape of a giant seahorse, with foliage growing out of its "mane." It is a haunting painting with fantasy overtures, but within the realm of what can be considered as surreal. The focal point of the painting, the seahorse rock is awash with smaller details that required a highly-developed technique to flesh out. Fortunately, Villaseran's practice is all about how these smaller details fit in a larger work---very similar to how a writer constructs a fantasy novel.
The University of the Philippines-trained painter is apt to use broad strokes, but paradoxically tempers them with fragile lines and details. His acrylic-on-canvas works show an artist whose narrative leanings have brought him to the forefront of the art scene.
New works by the artist will be on display at Galerie Stephanie in Libis, Quezon City, in an exhibit entitled Orchestra. The exhibit opens on January 22, 2014 by 6:30pm and runs until February 7. Galerie Stephanie is located at Unit 1B, Parc Plaza Bldg,183 E.Rodriguez Jr. Ave, Libis, Quezon City.
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