There is man sitting with his arms crossed, defiant even as paint is splashed and splattered across his face. This is a manifestation of anger, one of the seven deadly sins, in Filipino artist Anton Mallari’s oil and acrylic on canvas work.
In his element, Mallari wields complete control over this painting, doing as he likes to the figure who has nowhere to run and hide – unlike in real life, where the evil and corrupt roam free.
Of the seven paintings in his solo show Kasalanan (Sins) at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur, Kurakot (Anger) has not only has the distinction of being the most fun painting to create, but the process itself was also rather cathartic.
“It captures exactly how I feel and I expressed it like a protest. I really enjoyed working on this. The final gesture in this painting, where gold was thrown in the face of the subject, I found relief,” says Mallari, adding that the figure featured is a representation of a local politician in his country.
Through dramatic usage of strong contrasts between light and dark, the 30-year-old weaves a tale of life in his country as he sees it.
There are many masters, both old and new ones, that inspire him, including Chilean hyperrealist painter Claudio Bravo, French neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch.
Mallari’s still life and portraits in Kesalanan (Sins) is both a personal interpretation of the deadly sins and a commentary on the social conditions in the Philippines.
It is not the first time he has tackled the seven deadly sins in one form or another, but this time it is presented in a less literal form.
His first exhibition in 2014, Things Done, focused on the idea of the “discarded image” and how images take on different meanings over time. In Back:Track a year later, he revisited works by the great masters as a form of homage to them.
Kesalanan (Sins) is his first solo exhibition abroad and Mallari does not shy away from everyday reality, however unpleasant it may be. He shares that it was when thinking of a theme for this show that he noticed a recurring pattern in the daily news: sin.
“Instead of growth and improvement, it is all about the slow destruction of our nation, from land grabbing to the elections,” he laments.
Still, Mallari remains optimistic and hopes that this will be the last time he is moved to represent these social ills in his art.
“I know that change is coming. Through this exhibition I want the viewer to see and remember the things I want and do not want for my country,” he says.In Onslaught (Gluttony), which is a striking work on Richard Koh Fine Art’s walls, you see prawns on plates stacked up high on a table and spilling over onto the tablecloth. The work suggests a feast unfinished.
In contrast, Puesto (Greed) is suspiciously serene in its still life depiction of a lone bee hovering around a vase of flowers, and Retokado (Lust) gazes at the viewer from behind her crumpled face.
Born and raised in Baguio City in the Philippines, he describes it as a place many artists call home and where “art is alive”.
Mallari himself had an early headstart, joining art competitions when he was in elementary school.
“I was enjoying art while being exempted from attending classes, so I kept painting,” he confides.
With numerous groups shows and his third solo just around the corner, Mallari looks all set to soar beyond the world he has known thus far.
“I am super excited and hopeful for a successful show where people from other places can appreciate my work,” he says of his show in Malaysia.
And his dream?
“To change and colour the world. To make mornings more beautiful and joyful. To make art that heals,” he shares.
Kesalanan (Sins) is on at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur till June 29. Call 03-2283 3677 or visit rkfineart.com for more information.