Urban Beats, which tomorrow night celebrates art, music, fashion and cocktails at 1961, features an exhibition by hotly-tipped Filipino artist, Mano Gonzales as the backdrop to the launch of a new jewellery line by Senhoa.
Owner Loven Ramos met Mano Gonzales almost exactly a year ago when Gonzales came to visit the gallery just before it was renovated. They got talking, and from there found plenty in common especially among friends working in fashion, journalism and publishing back home in the Philippines.
Gonzales, 24, has been drawing since he was a kid, compulsively so. It’s what he did instead of listening to the teacher. But his waywardness is starting to pay off as the artist is building a reputation around his pencil and graphite depictions of people.
“If you look at the drawings that I’ve made, it kind of looks like the people have been through something. They’ve just finished crying or something over something that’s happened. I don’t make the story in the picture. It comes from what they look like and from making you think about what might have happened that led to them looking like that,” said Gonzales.
The raw portraits, and his other work, have led to a growing recognition of the artist in Manila, where he has worked for Esquire Philippines and Playboy, and is a regular contributor the Philippine Star newspaper.
He recently completed a commission to draw his unique portraits for 9TV, for its new television documentary series, Good Company.
With the Urban Beats exhibition, Gonzales is looking at taking his work to another level. He stays with the idea of the portrait, but has peeled back a layer, literally and figuratively, to reveal near X-ray images of crevassed skulls below. The graphic images, in pencil, are topped with a box containing a more abstract impression of what might be going on in the mind below, an X-ray so to speak.
According to Loven, the box is the basis for the dialogue between the viewer and the work as we question what it contains, what it was, and what it will be.
The dialogue that Gonzales is trying to provoke between the viewer and the work is built on his educational background. Despite his distraction at school, his mother was keen for him to qualify as a doctor and so sent him to a science school, where he studied social sciences including psychology, sociology and history.
“This was a great influence,” Gonzales says. “I’m very interested in human emotions and thought processes. It’s all about what happened to a person in his past that leads him or her to act or look a particular way right now. The behaviour, emotions and feelings we have right now, are a result of what’s happened to us in the past.
“I’m not necessarily creating a story for each image, It’s a discussion between the viewer and the artwork itself. What they think of it.
“I was trying to mix something scientific with something very emotional, because right now when people talk about someone’s perception of their reality, it’s subjective or objective, so for this one I was trying to mix something that’s scientific in portraying something that’s personal to each person.”
The evening will also mark the launch of a new Swarovski-studded jewellery range by anti-trafficking NGO, Senhoa, to coincide with a parallel launch of the range, named EM, in London.
Inspired by the jewellery, mixology maestro Clayton Jedam will be cooking up some stylish cosmopolitans, while DJs Sakura Bloom and Edwardowski create sets inspired by Gonzales’ images. “My partner, Kurt Xu, said to me one day, you know we really need an event where we can tell people to get dressed up and ready for a really great party. Then when Mano came in on it, it really cemented everything. We got really excited about it. It all came together perfectly,” said Loven.