Believe it or not, arts is also an industry that used to be dominated by men. This is especially true for the Philippines. Do a quick Google search of the most famous artists in the Philippines, and the first names you’ll see are those of Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Botong Francisco, Benedict Cabrera, among others. Yes, all of these men are renowned for good reason, and some of their most notable works depicted the lives of Filipino women during their time—but what about women who were actually practicing art all the same?
Today, more women are carving their names in the Philippine art industry, earning reasonable exposure and respect as professionals and masters of their craft. In this article, let’s look at three women of contemporary arts and design in the Philippines.
Women artists and designers from the Philippines
Pacita Abad is perhaps one of, if not, the most respected women artists in the Philippines. She was an Ivatan born in the province of Batanes. She was also a Philippine-American painter.
Daughter of Jorge A. Abad and Aurora Barsana Abad, who both served as congressman and congresswoman in Batanes, Abad was expected to pursue a political career. Her path to becoming a painter began after having been to places like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Laos, and more for an entire year. Abad’s travels inspired her to engage in traditional art practices—leading to extraordinary masterpieces that were displayed in multiple exhibits all over the world.
Reports show that she was able to create over 4,500 artworks throughout her career. Her early paintings were mainly figurative socio-political works of people and primitive masks. Later in life, she explored large-scale paintings of flora, fauna, and underwater scenes. Abad’s most extensive body of work, however, is abstract art—large-scale canvases with vibrant, colorful art, as well as small collages made of a myriad of materials like bark, cloth, metal, ceramics, and glass.
Abad had an illustrious career, having received numerous awards such as the Ten Outstanding Young Men Award for Art, which, prior to her win in 1984, is an award typically bestowed upon Filipino men only. Her win, which was a first for Filipino women, was received by great opposition, to which she replied: “It was long overdue that Filipina women were recognized, as the Philippines was full of outstanding women.”
Another contemporary painter and visual artist, Mallari is known for her works which mostly take inspiration from the 1980s, a time when the country—and the world as a whole—was brimming with political issues, global capitalism, mass media, and the very distinctive styles in music and fashion. She is best known for painting subjects that latch on to the themes of identity and marginalization in Philippine society.
Mallari also became popular for her contemporary Filipino figurative expressionist art style, which is considered typical among members of the art movements called Grupong Salimpusa and Sanggawa, both of which she participated in alongside other notable figures in the modern-day Philippine art scene. Her style, however, makes use of a narrative approach that separates her from other iterations of figurative expressionism. One critic described her art as an exploration of “the linkages between literature and art.”
Her mother’s demise prompted her to tentatively leave her studies at the University of the Philippines in order to work full-time and support her family. Mallari found employment at a newly inaugurated animation company, where the artist worked on background animation alongside the pioneers of the Philippine animation industry, as well as some of the last generation of Pinoy billboard artists. She later found inspiration from this experience in animation, as seen in later works where influences of animation reemerged.
Atienza is an award-winning, Dutch-Filipina multimedia artist and filmmaker who currently lives and works in Bantayan Island, a small province in the Philippines. Previously, she moved between the Netherlands and the Philippines throughout her life, hence describing herself as “constantly oscillating between these two cultures”—something that profoundly influenced her and her art.
Today, she is known for her works in installation and video, both of which she uses to capture sociological concepts, and issues around environment, community, and development. She typically uses technology, specifically mechanical systems, in her works. Atienza often collaborates with various artists and non-artists for her work, even featuring residents of Bantayan Island in her recent works.
She holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Visual Arts and Design in the Netherlands, with various international exhibitions and awards under her belt, such as the Baloise Art Prize in Art Basel Switzerland; the Thirteen Artists Awards from the Cultural Center of the Philippines; and the Mercedes Zobel/Outset Residency at Gasworks, London.
Find your inner artist at CIIT
Becoming an artist is not an easy process; it is a long, tiring journey filled with trials and errors. As a leading educational institution with top-notch facilities and up-to-date programs, courses under our Senior High School Arts and Design track can help aspiring artists develop their skills and turn it into something more.
Be the next figure of Philippine art and design. Read more about our arts and design courses here.