Filipino artist, Winner Jumalon, has been at our residency for the past three months. In early June, he arrived without a pre-conceived idea as to what he would produce during the residency, other than the intention to "absorb the place, the new environment." After an initial period of discovery, he started developing the remarkable bofy of work which he produced for the final exhibition, spending long nights at work in his studio. His paintings are richly layered, complex works, using multiple media such as pastels, spray paint, oil and wax. Ranging from intimate to large scale murals, the works are condensed with abstract backdrops, landscapes and figures. All the images are portraits of people, objects, plants and buildings that he has seen during his time here. We sat down with Winner to interview him about his process, his unique array of inspirations, and his thoughts and feelings about his time at our program.
Winner admits that his experience here in Israel, has been that of an "outsider" peeping into a new culture, absorbing his new surroundings without actually integrating into them. In order to achieve this, Winner went out for walks in the city, looking around and finding people that triggered his curiosity. Without disrupting the scene, Winner followed his muses and photographed them in their natural poses. He then incorporated the figures and images into his paintings, playing with their poses to create meaning in the composition. For example, one of Winner's works depicts a young girl holding an oil painting that Winner saw when he was scouring the town. The backdrop of the painting mimics the oil painting the girl is holding, using the same blue-toned palette, bluring the lines between image and reality.
On one of his expeditions, Winner went to a local church and took pictures of people as they stepped outside. He described his childhood in the Philippines as filled with memories of going to church and listening to stories from the New Testament. Even though he is no longer a practicing Christian, physically being in the place where many of the stories of Jesus actually took place, was a very strong experience. He found himself drawn to a church in Jaffa, which he describes as a space of cultural diversity, that he used as a starting point to seek a connection with the foreign environment. In one of Winner's grand murals, he portrays several different figures with their back turned to the viewer, as if they are looking at something just ahead of them that we cannot see. "I wanted to keep it vague – the figures could be looking at some beautiful view, or something terrible, or perhaps they are standing before the Wailing Wall. For me, the vagueness portrays the irony of the land of Israel. Israel is a Holy Land, but is also at war. This painting juxtaposes unrelated people and portrays the tension between spirituality and violence," explains Winner.
Winner's residency was a dual one together with Moris, an artist from Mexico. This was a new trial for the Tiroche DeLeon and ST-ART Residency Program. It turns out that both artists benefitted from this. Winner enjoyed working alongside Moris, stating that it was "a nice exchange" that was essential to the residency. The joint residency gave each of the artists the opportunity to discuss their process with another creative person. Winner describes his final month here, which he spent alone preparing for his solo exhibition, as time he kept to himself and his work, a time of reflection. Ultimately, the backdrops to the paintings Winner produced were psychological landscapes, an expression of Winner's internal reflections during his time.
Winner met interesting people and had enjoyable experiences during the course of his stay in Israel. Among others, he had the honor of meeting Nathanial Imperial, the Filipino Ambassador of Israel, who has shown enormous support to Winner and the program since Winner's arrival. On days spent out of the studio, Winner visited various museums and galleries, and even got a tattoo inked on his arm, in Hebrew. His tattoo translates into "do everything with love", which is a symbolic memory that he will allways carry, remembering his unique experience in Israel. The new sights and figures merge into his psychological landscapes, and are the expression of the actual intersection between Winner and Israeli culture, or what he terms his "alien surroundings". This encounter between the two "unlikely" elements, a young artist from the Philippines and the Middle-Eastern setting, has produced breath-taking, complex artworks that carry a spiritual and religious "weight" and are in the end, deeply personal.
Winner Jumalon's solo exhibition "I Come in Peace", opens September 8 at the Residency house in Jaffa: Invite / Works.
Interview - conducted and written by Melanie Stern. To watch the interview, click here.
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