Manuel Ocampo describes himself as an artist pretending to be a painter, always seeing himself as a novice, learning and picking up ideas from fellow artists. Such is his latest exhibit at West Gallery, titled Boycotter of Beauty and the Theoretical Steroid Defiled Modernist Chicken, which is largely inspired by the French artist and poet Francis Picabia’s collection of writings, I Am a Beautiful Monster. He didn’t have one style, Ocampo says, discussing Picabia, who was part of the avant-garde movement of his time, yet denounced the movement’s principles as well.
It is from this perspective Ocampo chooses to proceed, albeit spontaneously as he faces his blank canvases and just lets his creative juices freely flow: “The theme that comes up again and again are figures that connect to a sort of myth-induced stereotype rendered iconic, but are bludgeoned into a farcical, conceptual iconoclasm rendered absurd by its exaggerated impotence as carriers of meaning or the esthetics of politics. The paintings are a comment on desire as painting itself is an object accustomed to this wish of being desirous, yet, in the series, they have a knack of providing some difficulty to the viewer as the conventions of painting are dismantled to the point of ridicule.”
Ocampo insists he does not possess set or learned techniques, and, despite an established art career, still considers himself as an amateur. He became popular for bravely discussing the subject of taboos and icons in his works. With his new abstract pieces, he tries to resist the world of over-professionalized and commodified art, wanting to remain “innocent” and “naïve.”
In the process, his paintings are never “finished,” and Ocampo would continuously work on them until he could, even if they were already in the possession of a collector.
Complementing his one-man exhibit are collaborative works with younger artists with whom he has worked when he was a curator at an exhibit held last November. They are young enough to be my sons, jokes Ocampo, but he does not see himself as the group’s mentor. They are art superstars in their own right, he says. “I am learning more from them.”
He continues, “It makes me think of art creation, not by an artist alone in his studio, but as being a part of a community. Leave your ego at the door, and support everybody… It is a way to have fun [with the group], and at the same time, you discover something about yourself.”
“We are our own audience,” says Ocampo, on his collaborative ventures. He does not mind sharing gallery space with up-and-coming artists, and embraces the consensus of what everybody sees as art. He continually encourages them to keep working on their craft. Using cardboard and hardware store paints, Ocampo believes one should not dwell on how expensive art materials are to “paint with abandon.”
With Nemo Aguila, Bjorn Calleja, Rommel Celespara, Jigger Cruz, Don Dalmacio, Beejay Esber, Dex Fernandez, Edric Go, Dave Lock, Jason Montinola and Epjey Pacheco.