Drawn together: How animation extends the narratives of Paulo Vinluan’s paintings

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Paulo Vinluan's "Object for Sisyphus I (study A)" (left) and "Object for Sisyphus I (study B)," both from his new solo exhibit at Finale. Photos courtesy of PAULO VINLUAN

Paulo Vinluan is going through some sort of transition. The Filipino artist, currently based between Manila and Brooklyn, New York, has slowly been incorporating animation to his work. At the same time, he began turning away from the security of day jobs — finally, if a little hesitantly — in an effort to put more focus on his art.

Growing up in a family of artists (his father, Nestor, and sister, Liv, are both practicing artists, as was his late mother, who had been an interior designer and weaver), Vinluan has always had an inclination for the arts. “I don’t think it made me decide to pursue art per se,” he shares. “However, I knew early on that I would be somewhere where being creative was a reflex."

And so, after receiving his BFA in Painting in 2003 from UP Diliman’s College of Fine Arts and studying at the Pratt Institute in New York in 2009, Vinluan spent three years in an ad agency, did visual merchandising for about four years, and then roughly two years of graphic design after that, all the while exhibiting his art on the side. “I think I was really hesitant more than anything then to end up as an artist like my dad,” he says, “but opportunities to show kept coming and I got busier and busier doing studio work.” His career as an artist has spanned 12 years and 15 solo shows. “It’s only in the past two years or so that I really considered and decided to stop running away from it and told myself, ‘This is it — let’s do this.’”

Paulo Vinluan - OBJECT FOR SISYPHUS II (2016) "This symbiotic relationship between the animation work and paintings, I think, is an interesting intersection to work in." Paulo Vinluan's "Object for Sisyphus II." Photo courtesy of PAULO VINLUAN  

Opening his latest exhibit of recent works today at Finale along Pasong Tamo, Vinluan continues to use animation as a way of exploring a painting’s flatness and going beyond it, extending its narrative to some kind of visible loop. Vinluan is interested in finding the story — even in the textural physicality of his chosen mediums for his objects — to come to terms with the histories of these objects and their thingness, having his gestures follow accordingly and incorporating “this curved surface” that somehow turns otherwise flat paintings into something sculptural.

With a focus on the objects’ individual tactility, their “objectness,” Vinluan captures something not readily told or uncovered.

Paulo Vinluan - Untitled (drawing 5), 2016, Untitled (drawing 6), 2016.jpg "This symbiotic relationship between the animation work and paintings, I think, is an interesting intersection to work in." Paulo Vinluan's "Untitled (drawing 5)" (left) and "Untitled (drawing 6)". Photos courtesy of PAULO VINLUAN

Below are edited excerpts of an interview with Vinluan:

Your work is very distinct stylistically. What themes or ideas did you want to explore in “Recent Works?” Is it a continuation of your practice or is it more of a contained series?

For the past three shows, I’ve been working with animation as a medium. Since everything is hand drawn frame-by-frame I started to feel that my work was a bit too flat which comes with the medium itself. It’s a tedious and repetitive process, and because I’m currently working on new animation for a project early next year, I felt this show would be a good opportunity to find a way to work with animation differently. This show is a work in progress for me, hence the untitled show.

Somehow I was looking for a process that made the work more tactile, maybe even sculptural, despite it having an innate graphic quality to it. Drawing is the most important thing to me and I try to base my practice around it. I introduced a round surface to paint on and I also began using a knife to draw with. I’m hoping there would be something new that the surface and tool would bring into the work, whether it be new imagery or simply just feel and quality. Ultimately, I would like not only my paintings or drawings to have this but also in the animation works as well.

"I don’t consider myself an animator at all, but I am using it as a tool in my practice. It’s become another language for me to converse in."

 

Why animation?

Initially, my animation work was a side project for me. I think, at the time, I became bored with painting and I needed a breather. My work deals with a lot of images and narratives and it really made sense to move in that direction. I felt that the paintings were a bit static and animation really gave me that platform to really control the narrative in my work. The element of time that’s intrinsic in the moving image really brought forward ideas that weren’t present in the painting and I enjoyed it — animation became a great image delivery system for me.

I don’t consider myself an animator at all, but I am using it as a tool in my practice. It’s become another language for me to converse in. I don’t really read or do my homework when it comes to the technical aspect of animating. Everything is done by hand frame-by-frame and painstaking (or ridiculous) trial and error. The only time I use a computer is when I scan and clean the images and compile them to make the video. There’s obviously technology I could use that would cut my work time by a fraction of what I usually clock in but I like how I can see traces of myself in the work — the hand-made quality is something I want to hold on to. The process itself is extremely slow, but it’s always a rush to watch a sequence completed on the computer screen.

Paulo Vinluan - Untitled (drawing 7), 2016, Untitled (drawing 8), 2016.jpg "This symbiotic relationship between the animation work and paintings, I think, is an interesting intersection to work in." Paulo Vinluan's "Untitled (drawing 7)" (left) and "Untitled (drawing 8)". Photos courtesy of PAULO VINLUAN  

You mentioned that this show is a continuation of your exploration of animation, and a part of a bigger project you’re working on. Are there any key pieces of yours that are directly involved in this shift?

It’s my intention to use the animation work as a jump off point to create the paintings. I think a good example is the animation video “Block” (2013) which was shown in Finale in December of 2013 and later became a body of paintings in 2014 that were shown in two separate exhibitions at West Gallery (April) and Finale (August). This symbiotic relationship between the animation work and paintings, I think, is an interesting intersection to work in.

My most recent animation “See Waves” (2015) will also be included in the current show. It’s a project I did for the Vargas Museum. It deals with silence, memories and this idea of the museum as a shell or vessel that carries such fleeting memories — much like the ocean wave you hear when you listen to a seashell.

 

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Paulo Vinluan’s “Recent Works” is on display at the Upstairs Gallery and Video Room of Finale from June 3 to July 2, 2016. Finale is located at Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound (Gate 1), 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City.