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“To me, some of the messages that are formed by the eyechart—depending on your learning—can stir up aggression or not," says Carlo Tanseco about his Rizal Eyechart Series.

Painting the unseen side of Carlo Tanseco

In his first ever show of paintings, happening in this year’s Art Fair no less, the furniture designer reconnects with a childhood passion   
ANCX Staff | Apr 13 2021

For years, his world revolved around design. Beginning with his Architecture education at the University of the Philippines, Carlo Tanseco’s reputation as a promising product, furniture and commercial designer grew, leading to a robust career. 

He garnered multiple awards, became a member of the celebrated Movement 8–which counted names like Budji Layug, Kenneth Cobonpue and Milo Naval among its members— and exhibited in trade shows here and in Europe (the Maison et Objet in Paris, the Ambiente in Frankfurt) and elsewhere. He was once a featured designer for Material Connexion in New York, one of the main material libraries for product and industrial designers globally. In that venue, he was able to express his design philosophies, show his strength in handling Philippine indigenous materials.

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“Dali – Magnifiying Glass” by Carlo S. Tanseco, 32” x 24”, acrylic on canvas. “My paintings of Salvador Dali represent my different approaches to my pieces…he has so many incarnations in his life—many facets, many iterations,” says Tanseco.

But like with many creatives, the time came when Tanseco itched for a shift. And so began his rediscovery of art, the results of which he’s unveiling in no less than this year’s Art Fair Philippines. His show is called Juxtaposed – Between Order and Complexity, launching at Art Cube Gallery in Makati City beginning May 6.

The show stems from Tanseco’s desire to break free from rules and restraints. Which is not new to him. As designer, he is known for his playfulness with his creations—a chair that blossoms like a flower, or a seat that echoes the silhouette of a face—unusual pieces that go against the grain and challenge your perception of what furniture should be.

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“Theseus and the Minotaur” by Carlo S. Tanseco, 40” x 30”, acrylic on canvas. “My main figures are usually made up of six shades of grey and a series of amorphous shapes that satisfy my bias for two-dimensional; shapes and colors used as building blocks. Then I add a layer that is hyper-realistic as a contrast, a highlight. Here, it is in the form of a golden thread and spool of Ariadne, and the spear/staff of the Minotaur.”

“Even when I design furniture, I have to answer to the functionality of it, but I also have to break away. For example, my Icarus Chair; it has to be ergonomically correct, but it has wings!”

Painting has recently become Tanseco’s personal way of breaking free from his usual forms of creativity, something that began as early as childhood.

Along the way, design projects here and there slowly bore the seed that led him back to painting. These include his New York exhibit and product developments, which entailed material manipulation, directing him to consider paint as a medium people constantly manipulate to create art. Another project was a stained-glass design for the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier, in the Xavier School of Nuvali. “The piecing together of the two-dimensional shapes of glass to form images,” says Tanseco, “influenced my painting style in a way like the piecing together of a grid to form a complete idea on canvas.”

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“Yayoi in Shades” by Carlo S. Tanseco, 30” x 40”, acrylic on canvas. In Tanseco’s painting, artist Yayoi Kusama becomes part of her own iconic pattern of dots. “Since I like patterns, geometry, symmetry, squares, triangles, dots, I look for personalities who use these principles in their art,” says Tanseco.

On the weekend before the ECQ in 2020, the artist ventured out to purchase the art materials he needed. “But even prior to the pandemic, I’ve been doing concepts already; finding my style, and finding that balance,” he says. The lockdown enabled him to focus on his painting, uninterrupted. “The process was the same [as when designing], but the situation gave me more material, more fodder, as it heightened my sense of mortality.”

His background in Architecture comes out clearly in the formal grids on his canvases. “I love pattern, order, and symmetry…but this exhibit is all about breaking that order, of violating it so that a new figure or realm emerges and opposes it,” Tanseco explains. “It is all about uniformity and consistency yielding to something that is free, defiant, and unique. It is about ideas that challenge the system.”

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Painting has recently become Tanseco’s personal way of breaking free from his usual forms of creativity, something that began as early as childhood.

The paintings in this collection feature subjects from classical Mythology, and iconic figures from history and art: Jose Rizal, Salvador Dali, Yayoi Kusama. Their likenesses openly disrupt an even grid or graphic pattern on canvas. The works are vibrant, almost arresting, each painting offering a narrative of disorder within order, of going against visual and spatial rules.

As Tanseco reveals there are two sides to his creative self, his Art Fair show gives us a glimpse of the way he sees the world—in everything exists a duality. “The geometry and the balance I created allow the viewers to decide for themselves…it is how I see life, really,” the artist says. “It is like a commentary on how things are presented to us: the government versus the populace, social media versus reality, good versus evil.” 

[Juxtaposed – Between Order and Complexity will run from May 6, 2021 at Art Cube Gallery at 2/F Building B, Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Roces Extension, Makati City. For more information, contact Art Cube Gallery at, email, or follow their Facebook page @ArtCubePhilippines, and Instagram @artcubeph. Visit Art Fair Philippines at]