Updated 19:00 PM PHT Mon, March 27, 2017
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Boasting more than 240 dealers from 34 countries, the youngest fair under the Basel banner is five years old and in the middle of a growth spurt. Over five days in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre last week, Art Basel Hong Kong proved itself an art fair formidable enough for W Magazine to exclaim, "Watch Out Miami: Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 Is Growing Up Fast!"
Buoyed by the region's rapidly expanding collector base, the fair displayed many signs of growth, from the increasingly global visitors to the quality selection of work. In the middle of all that excitement, Zean Cabangis, a 32-year-old Filipino artist who's long been a fixture on "Young Artists to Watch" lists in Philippine publications, quietly but purposefully made his presence felt. Through Art Informal, his home gallery, Cabangis was picked as one of the artists that were part of Art Basel's “Discoveries,” winning the privilege of doing a solo show in the prestigious art fair.
According to the Art Basel website, "Discoveries gives a powerful platform to emerging contemporary artists, showcasing work by the next generation of talent at an early stage in their career." As part of the program, galleries who apply and are selected for “Discoveries” exhibit new work — created specifically for Art Basel Hong Kong — by one or two artists from their gallery program.
Artists exhibiting in “Discoveries” — and the “Positions” sector in Miami Beach — are eligible for the BMW Art Journey, a collaboration between Art Basel and BMW. The initiative has been created to recognize and support emerging artists by "enabling them to embark on journeys of creative discovery."
For “Discoveries,” Cabangis exhibited “Echoes,” a show he considers as a spiritual continuation of his Art Informal exhibit last year. "I just took off from there," he says. To qualify for “Discoveries,” Cabangis and Art Informal submitted a proposal to Art Basel Hong Kong. "It's basically about how the 2D and 3D elements of my works connect, how the intervention that I did in the paintings transcends the actual exhibition space itself, how the 3D installation creates a bridge to the actual space and how the painting does the same job towards the factual," he says.
"Another idea [in ‘Echoes’] is highlighting the connection of nature and landscape to humans,” he adds. “The titles of the works are based on human emotions and experiences to further imply that we, nature and man, are interconnected."
Cabangis has been shortlisted for the Ateneo Art Awards, one of the country's most prestigious art prizes, three times — in 2012, 2013, and 2014. In 2015, he was awarded the Cultural Center of the Philippines' 13 Artists Award, the CCP's oldest award program and a distinction awarded to artists under 40 who take the "chance and risk to restructure, restrengthen, and renew art making and art thinking."
Cabangis, who humorously refers to himself as "a biker who sometimes paints," doesn't romanticize the Art Basel Hong Kong achievement, nor his process. For this show, he admits that he didn't really do anything differently in terms of production, outside of "biking a bit more to see and feel and reflect more on things."
"Pushing myself to the limits and being outside contributed a lot of things for this show," he says. "Just being outside and relying only on your body — and [your] bike — is very liberating and elicits an unexplainable feeling that is discernible in my whole painting and thinking process."