Filipino artist Pio Abad among rising stars in UK art scene

By Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at May 16 2013 09:56 AM | Updated as of May 16 2013 06:28 PM

LONDON - UK-based Filipino artist Pio Abad was among a handful of emerging artists selected for a special series of exhibitions by the Zabludowicz Collection.

The 29-year-old Abad, son of Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Batanes Rep. Dina Abad, secured one of only seven spots in the gallery's Invites Series, an annual special project showcasing promising new talents in the UK art scene.

"I was very interested by his work because he deals with aspect of history and personal history, but also geo-political realities, but he does it in a very aesthetic way and so he’s got a real sensibility to beauty and form," said Ellen Mara de Watcher, the curator from Zabludowicz Collection who discovered Abad and a handful of other promising artists.

Part of the installation from Pio Abad's Invites exhibit at Zabludiwicz Collection

The 2013 Invites Series include Lora Hristova, Lucy Tomlins, Berry Patten, Heather Phillipson, and Nicholas Brooks. Each artist is given the opportunity to hold a solo exhibition of new works especially created for the series.

"They’re artists who don’t yet have a market, they don’t tend to sell too many works, and so they’re still at a stage in their career where they can be very experimental, and that’s what attracted us to these people. And also, they can be from different nationalities but they should be based here in the UK, so that’s how we select them," de Watcher explained.

Abad's exhibit features souvenirs and memorabilia from North Korea, exploring how ideology can be imprinted in seemingly ordinary objects like stamps, plates, and coins.

"My work deals a lot with how ideologies can be contained in even the most banal objects," Abad told ABS-CBN Europe. "For instance, how historical events are compressed into souvenirs. I was drawn to making work about this festival because it served as a perfect example of how everything was manufactured to enforce an ideology, from architecture, to sculpture, to the small souvenir badges that they gave away. Often my work deals with large grand historical narratives but I try to look at it from a domestic perspective."

The installation drew inspiration from the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students held at Pyongyang in 1989. His father Butch Abad represented the Philippines at the event, and a large print photograph of him standing in front of a monument forms a focal point in the exhibit.

Pio Abad drew inspiration from North Korea

A replica of a controversial pyramid-shaped building which took several years to complete, reportedly due to lack of funding, is also at the center of the show.

"My dad happened to be one of the delegates in the festival so I had quite a lot of first-hand material that I was able to sift through," the artist said.

At the time of the exhibit's opening on April 19, Abad’s piece took on a more topical significance as North Korea was once again in the headlines with the escalation of rhetoric on nuclear weapons.

"I've been doing research on this event," he said. "It was quite a strange coincidence that the show opened this week when Pyongyang was suddenly back on the front pages of the newspapers. It definitely was not something I orchestrated."

Born in Manila, Abad, nephew of the late artist Pacita Abad, moved to the UK in 2004 to study at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. He later continued with postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy Schools in London.

For his post-graduate student show, his work explored mythology that emerged from the tumultuous Marcos era, a prevalent theme around his childhood in the Philippines.

"I think that show anchored larger ideas of power, ornamentation and ideology onto something that I was familiar with and has very personal resonance but is largely untold in this part of the world," he explained.

"An important part of my work is how personal narratives inform larger stories. I don't set out to make work specifically just about the Philippines, but as the work deals with my relationship to history, my place in the world, it definitely enters the equation."

Invites Series: Pio Abad is at the Zabludowicz Collection in Camden until May 19.