Featured image: “Locus Amoenus” at Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila
Gathered in bunches and trailing like vines, Ryan Villamael’s paper-cut sculptures cascade through niches of interiors, history, and identity. Utilizing maps to create overgrowths of leaves, the artist addresses complex relationships between cartography and culture.
Based in Los Baños, Laguna, in the Philippines, Villamael focuses his practice on tangled narratives within himself and the country. Because his father had to leave home as an overseas worker, the young artist grew up without his presence. This physical disconnect was challenging and catalyzed Villamael’s fascination with cartography. He explains, “Looking at maps was my way of connecting with him, of tracing the paths he might have traveled.”
This fixation has carefully cultivated itself ever since, as the artist sees the geographic representations as a way to uncover familial paths and collective memory. However, at odds with this sentiment of reclaiming personal history, Villamael also alludes to the presence of authoritative geopolitical ambitions that perpetuate partial truths.
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