Fat is beautiful

By Lei Chavez, abs-cbnnews.com

Posted at Dec 23 2008 05:23 PM | Updated as of Dec 26 2008 02:29 AM

Everything is big in Palma Tayona's world. That includes his built, his non-conventional ideas, his artistic life, his works, and of course, the humongous windows of his house in Libertad where he can see his subjects—big round images of people on the streets.
 
In his second solo show for the year, Tayona presents his Pen and Ink collection of everyday subjects but with a peculiar theme he came to be known for: all of his subjects are plump—from men, women, even the trees!
 
Why fat subjects, you ask? For Tayona, the reason was simple: "If you'll meet my mom, you'll know why." He also adds that his concept of beauty is "yung siksik."
 
Refusing to divulge his age, Tayona gets inspirations from the street where he lives, "Each morning I wake up, drink my cup of coffee, sit by the window and watch the events of the day. That is what is familiar to me. I cannot draw anything that is not familiar."
 
Tayona started drawing at the age of four and his canvas were the walls of their house, much to his mother's dismay. When he was eight, his interest diverted to his father's National Geographic magazine collection.
 
"I would cut the pictures then paste it on the walls of my room. I used popsicle sticks as frames and since our teacher taught us parallel circuit, I added lights to my images. As a kid I would imagine putting up a gallery beside my bed," he says.
 
Although he had the educational background, being a graduate of fine arts and tourism from the University of the Philippines, Tayona did not immediately start sketching and painting until 2004.
 
"I have had so many detours in life. In 1995, I worked at advertising agencies. By 2000, I started my own graphic firm which I closed down in 2001," Tayona shares between bites of his sandwich, his dinner for the day. He also became a designer for an Online gallery but it didn't fare well so it closed after a year.
 
"From 2002 to 2003 I was just bumming around. I literally put on a backpack and went traveling around Asia," Tayona explains.
 
During the decade of jumping from one job to another and while satiating his nomadic urges, he got exposed to the works of Latin American artists like Frida Kahlo. By seeing Latin American arts, Tayona says it made him "open my eyes more to what we have."
 
"These Latin American artists broadened my perspective. If you compare Latin American artists, they are the same with Filipinos—they use the same colors, how they see the tragedy, they have the same Catholic guilt, machismo, animism and the mestizo attitude in Mexico and Argentina is the same here."
 
What started out as popsicle-framed cut-out pictures became real-life paintings in the summer of 2004, when he had his first two-man show. In that same year, Tayona and his friends eventually formed Canvas, an organization that supports artists in their mid-career.
 
Although his works look humorous, dream-like, and, well, portly and full, each of his pieces has its own stories, sometimes happy, sometimes gory and sad, but nevertheless overflowing with life. Here are some of his works and some background on what he was thinking at the time:
 
Sad, sad woman stares into the stars
11" x 17" charcoal drawing on kraft paper
 
"This is my favorite piece. I made it in 2002, and the style is different from the others in my collection. When I was nine years old, my cousins and I used to tease Marta, 'Martang peklat'. She would often go to our house during the holidays and ask for money but my mother would give her food instead. Martha was mentally ill and would sleep in my uncle and aunt's garage. I last saw Martha when my uncle died, Martha was screaming and crying wildly during the burial, then I never saw her again. My mom told me Martha's story: She was abused at the age of 16 and bore a child. She killed her child and was detained in a mental hospital. There, she was also raped by her co-patients and bore another child. She also killed it, eventually."
 
Aling Emily and double dead meat
40" x 30" acrylic on canvas (left)
20" x 14" pen and ink on paper (right)

 
"Aling Emily is the woman I buy meat from. Trucks carrying meat usually arrives around one in the morning in Libertad Market. In between this time until three in the morning, the meat are bought from the trucks, cut, and prepared to be sold in the early morning rush. Sometimes, I'm awake at that time and I see them. I was with some of my buddies when I saw her standing at the street, giving out instructions, oftentimes yelling. All along she was holding the pig's head in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I was like 'Whoa' the whole image of her was so surreal. I found later on that she was one of the sellers of double-dead meat."
 
Blue Bird
18" x 18" acrylic on canvas
 
"In front of my window is an electric post where birds stay often. During my first year in that house, I placed some rice grains in my window, hoping the birds will eat it. A few days after, the birds started to eat the treat and I was happy. One hot day, I decided to keep the windows open and sleep beside the window. I fell asleep and dreamt I was being stabbed. I woke up sweating and felt a pain in my chest. When I looked, I found a lone bird perched on my chest and pecking on my left nipple. I freaked out, the bird flew inside my house and I struggled to keep it out."
 
Palma Tayona's sketches and paintings are hanging at Halo restaurant in the bohemian enclave Cubao X. Price ranges from P3,000 to P35,000. For more information on his works, visit Visual Viscera.