The Filipino Street Art Project is a documentary film and multimedia web venture aimed at exploring Filipino life and culture through the booming street scene.
We have the pleasure of speaking with Jood Clarino
this week. An artist and educator at the University of Santo Tomas, Jood approaches public art from an academic perspective. He is making the same calls that we here at the Project are making:
"There’s almost nothing written about graffiti and street art in the Philippines. I hope art critics and art historians can start writing about this movement."
We’re coming Jood. Let’s build this movement together.
Where are you from and how did you grow up: family, education, etc?
Born and raised in Manila, I am the second of eleven brothers and sisters. Basically, I grew up in a big family. I spent most of my childhood taking care of my siblings and drawing on the walls of our old home. We drew TV sets, radios, and all sorts of appliances that we couldn’t afford at the time. Taking care of my siblings really built my sense of responsibility at an early age.
Our neighborhood back then was really laid-back but it wasn’t that peaceful either.
I studied fine arts at University of Santo Tomas. Back then, I wasn’t that involved in the arts because I had to attend football training for my entire five-year stay. I worked hard to get an athletic scholarship so I could be a bit of help to my parents. I’m currently working on my MFA thesis at UST.
You said the neighborhood you grew up in was laid back, but not peaceful…
Our place back then in Marikina was, and still is, a nice place to live in. It’s always clean with lots of trees. You can hike if you want to because of the nearby hills, or just hang around the riverbanks.
In the 80’s, Marikina was known as the rape capital of Metro Manila. Every week you would hear news about a body of a girl being dumped on the grasslands. In the 90’s there was the presence of gangs. I wasn’t part of any gang but some of my friends were.
Near our house there’s a park where skaters, or trashers
(our term before), hang out and just play and chill. I used to hang a lot in that park after school.
What is the topic of your MFA thesis?
The main idea or concept of my thesis will mainly revolve around street art or public art. There are no concrete directions yet. It’s quite hard to make a thesis with limited local references.
In my research there’s almost nothing written about graffiti / street art in the Philippines. I hope art critics and art historians can start writing about this movement. But I don’t want to state the obvious in my study, that is the hard part. But as long as I do street art, and connect myself with other street artists, there will be developments in my research.
What do you do now for work and for fun?
Working at the academy is my primary job. Although some say it’s a vocation, you can find work and fun in the same avenue.
I taught Art at the elementary level at Ateneo de Manila. Then I transferred to the tertiary level where I now teach freehand drawing, studio materials, computer graphics and color rendering.
Do you feel compelled to mentor younger artists, and do you ever encourage them to do street art?
In working with students, you need different kinds of motivation because of the different personalities. I haven’t encouraged them to do graffiti though.
What drives your professional career and what are your hobbies?
Aside from teaching I do freelance designs, illustrations and paintings. Sometimes I put up small art exhibits or simply showcase my art in a gallery. I also coach football for children. That’s where I get my exercise.
I get inspirations everywhere; God, family, friends, nature. It helps me get to know myself, the people around me, basically the whole surrounding.
How did you first get into art, and particularly, street art?
It was back in college when my friends Ungga, Boy Agimat, Okto and Def started the group Pilipinas Street Plan
. We attended the same school and shared the common interest of hitting up the streets.
Doing street art gives one a certain thrill and excitement, while at the same time promoting your art or your name out in the public. It may be just a tag or a piece, but it still involves the basic elements of art.
Why do you make the artworks that you do? What motivates you?
I like the concept of mystery in my works. There is always a figure in my compositions that always has something hidden, whether it’s the eyes, the mouth, its gesture, or even its whole face.
I also do pieces of a hooded figure. Representing a wanderer, wonderer, an individual who relishes and loathes whatever’s in the urban society.
This wraith-like figure is compelling. In my experience wandering outside at night, I came to form this figure. A figure that observes but filters what he loathes behind urban society.
What messages are you trying to convey? What stories are you trying to tell?
Ever since I was a kid, I always wondered about my Japanese roots. I find the culture very complex, very mystical. Having those thoughts led me to what I try to express today.
In doing graffiti, I like the concept of layers. Layers of lines, color, shapes cannot exactly tell us what a piece means, and neither do the figures, but the layer as a concept will mean a lot and can interpret a lot.
Doing stencils makes you think you’ve done a precise task. But once you think you have it all covered, the results come out differently. That makes it predictable, yet uncertain.
How would you characterize your style? What influences your style?
I’m not an expert in reading or naming styles but I guess it’s just a mixture of a lot of techniques and research. I have lots of influences. It’s nice to be around creative people; there you find plenty of motivation. My friends in PSP are awesome people. The group has evolved and everyone is doing a great job today. I miss you brothers!
You seem to work with a variety of mediums: graffiti, pasteups, and painting. How do these forms compare to one another, and do you need to approach each with a different mindset?
As an artist one is just eager to try new things. Materials are widespread and you can acquire them easily. Painting outside is just scaling your work. Of course, working indoors is the most convenient. For me it’s a matter of exploring media, styles, and techniques. There’s a constant development in art.
You have been doing gallery work lately. We have heard people like Mark Salvatus talk about how the rise of street art galleries is removing some of the character and personality from the street art scene. Is there a conflict between street art and gallery art?
There are some people who don’t like street art inside galleries. It defies the concept. But for me, whether you are a graffiti artist or a writer, you use the basic elements of art. Even that style has a concept or idea. Why is it not fit for galleries?
Putting this kind of movement in galleries will surely raise attention to people who want to write about them. From there people can have a research study. I recalled what Futura mentioned in his art talk; “we will not be doing this forever.” At some point a graffiti artist “might” go inside galleries to sustain what he is doing and for extra income.
I want to make a survey about what people like and dislike about graffiti. It would be interesting to know the perspective of people who live in the slums, in contemporary homes, and the rich people.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Philippines?
I think this country is slowly climbing up. There’s a massive growth in the economy, which also affects the things we do today.
I notice heaps of shows here and there. Galleries are filled with art gigs. People flock to these places and it’s nice to be around these occasions.
This country has a very diverse culture, and that makes it Filipino. There are so many cultures and it has become colorful for society.
Thanks Jood. And best of luck!
Interview by Austin Smith
Kim Dryden is the Project Director and Producer at FSAP, and is a contributor for WikaMag.com
Browse Jood’s album on our Facebook page.
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