The youngest artist represented by Silverlens Galleries, 30-year-old Ryan Villamael creates art from cut paper. His work has been seen and admired all over the world. His last solo show at Silverlens called Epilogue ran from February to March in 2017. It was a clear success, based on attendees and collectors from here and abroad who acquired his works. Before this, he was in the Singapore Biennale for which he created Locus Aneomus (Latin for "pleasant place"), an installation where he populated the Singapore Art Museum's greenhouse with foliage cut from vintage and contemporary Philippine maps. The work referenced both the Philippines' fraught history with colonialism and the OFWs who secure a better future for themselves and their families away from home.
Villamael was one of three emerging visual artists chosen by the Ateneo Art Awards in 2015. He was to take up residencies in Ateneo partner institutions like La Trobe University Visual Arts Center in Bendigo, Australia; Artesan Gallery + Studio in Singapore; and Liverpool Hope University in the UK.
As an artist, your work and research have taken you to places that are renowned for a particular style of art. Which cities have you visited for this purpose and what did you discover there?
In 2015, I went to Paris to participate in a group exhibition in Palais de Tokyo. It was my first trip outside Asia. I learned a lot about myself on that trip. It was the trip that taught me to look further and dream of bigger possibilities. Seeing the masterpieces in the museums was especially life-changing. Looking at something like a Rodin sculpture up close isn't just a testament to the lasting power of great art, it was also a reminder to me that you can make something of yourself, and get to where you want to, no matter where you come from.
How did you begin traveling for your work? For you, what is it like to discover the identity of a place? How do you use this for your designs?
Most of the traveling I've done is for work, for exhibits, or residencies. An example of travel inspiring my work was when I went to Bangkok in 2012, which was actually my first trip abroad. I was struck with the similarities and differences of our cultures. I ended up doing a show called Kosmik in West Gallery inspired by that.
We've known you as a paper cut artist. What does it mean to bring this art form around the world? How do people around the world receive your work?
In my experience, people are generally receptive to the medium. I think people have long expanded their views of art beyond paint-on-canvas, especially abroad so paper cut art isn't anything they haven't seen before.
Photographs by Jar Concengco
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 24 2018.