27-year-old Rasel Trinidad, known in the art world as visceral artist Doktor Karayom, was one of CCP’s TAA. Photograph by Romeo Peralta Jr.
Culture Art

The piercing truths in the unspeakable universe of Doktor Karayom

The mind of the TAA awardee is a palette that runs from grotesque to humorous, but ultimately engaging.
Fidel Feria | Jan 25 2019

A man lies supine in his own innards. His head is only narrowly intact, having been brutally cleaved open by Lord-knows-whom. Littered over and beside this corpse, tiny faceless humans stand beside severed heads. Small clumps of each are fixed on puddles of arrestingly bright blood.

This butchered man, the artist explains, is Dr. Jose Rizal. And entering the installation, it feels as though you are walking in a maze of his entrails.

It took about three months for Trinidad to finish this entire tableau that was housed at CCP’s main gallery.

The piece is “Isla Inip,” a striking interactive installation by visual artist Rasel Trinidad, popularly known in the local art scene as Doktor Karayom. In October last year, the gifted Trinidad was among the awardees of the Thirteen Artists Award (TAA), a coveted prize honoring contemporary artists’ “responsiveness” to the realities that surround us.

This begs the question: what do we make of current “realities” when our artists depict the grotesque?

The role of my work, Trinidad, 27, tells ANCX, is to show two sides of reality—from a friendly colloquial way you would tell your buddies a story, to the more biting admonitions at the hands of your parents, the kind you actively avoid but experience anyway. He adds, it is to reveal what is “right” from the wrongs of our surroundings.

In his “Inip Isla,” the man lying down with half of his head open is Jose Rizal.

At first glance, a lot of my work may be frightening or disgusting, the Fine Arts major from Technological University of the Philippines Manila says. But if you look at it closely, he posits, it is “ma-drama” and humorous, too. It offers a sardonic look at both the good and bad, the earnest and humorous; almost all of the objects in my pieces have meaning to my characters, Trinidad explains in an email interview.

And a quick survey into his blog and Instagram account could prove him right. But be forewarned; Trinidad’s body of work online is replete with gory bacchanalia, macabre depictions of  pop culture icons, and blood-red illustrations of humans and humanoids in sexual congress. Among other unspeakable things, that is. To say the least, Trinidad’s work is difficult to look away from, immediately engrossing, and reflective of this generation’s day in the sun.

There are about 1,000 individual pieces to “Inip Isla,” which Trinidad made painstakingly by hand.

Evidently, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) felt the same of Trinidad’s oeuvre. But while the TAA nod has pleased him exceedingly, Trinidad admits he is just happy to create—content in the prospect that his art may stand as inspiration for others, if not issue an invitation to challenge one’s consciousness.

Tuloy tuloy pa din naman ako sa paggawa ng mga bagay na gusto ko, may parangal man o wala,” Trinidad adds.

The lying body is reflected upon the ceiling in Doktor Karayom’s signature colors.
The artist makes use of board game/bored game metaphor to represent everyday Filipino life.

The role of the artist is huge in the community, Trinidad avers. Even, he insists, less confrontational work. Trinidad believes those who exist inside a proverbial bubble still offer something of value—an escape. They teach their audience to be calm, to think reflectively, and possibly see things from a far more challenging perspective, he adds.

But it must be acknowledged that with escape, there is the inevitable dilemma of at what cost. There's a reason why there are no “gritty” pictures in the MMFF, why the Philippine National Police insists that cops be portrayed as upstanding moral beings, and a reason why so many choose to ignore the corpses that still line our streets.

Doktor Karayom is on the lips of many art enthusiasts, with collab shows at the likes of Vinyl on Vinyl.

There are unequivocal wrongs that need “responsiveness,” that require confrontation—art is the tool to do just that.

Explaining “Isla Inip,” Trinidad reveals that the installation mirrors the way we continue our farce—all the schemes we hatch as deflection to our realities. The mangled man is a national hero, and he is our Isla. The faceless people ambling about his corpse, Trinidad explains, are us.

It is difficult to disagree.

Click on the image below for slideshow

From doodles he did as a child, Trinidad's perspective evolved into grisly, attention-grabbing depictions of sometimes prosaic concepts. Photograph from @dorktorkarayom on Instagram

Doctor Karayom’s “As One, 2018”, acrylic on watercolorpaper, 2’X3’ Photograph from @dorktorkarayom on Instagram

Doctor Karayom’s “Brgy. Sipsipdugo, 2018”, acrylic on watercolorpaper, 3’X4’ Photograph from @dorktorkarayom on Instagram

Doctor Karayom’s “Nino-Leon”, acrylic on watercolorpaper, 12’X12’ Photograph from @dorktorkarayom on Instagram

From doodles he did as a child, Trinidad's perspective evolved into grisly, attention-grabbing depictions of sometimes prosaic concepts. Photograph from @dorktorkarayom on Instagram


For more information on Doktor Karayom’s works and exhibits, visit doctorkarayom.blogspot.com or follow the artist on instagram at @doktorkarayom.