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The following information is synopsis and quotes from an interview published online in Artes de las Filipinas: The Art of the Philippines:
YASMIN SISON'S UNFLINCHING ART
?by: Christiane de la Paz April 2010 --
In the early years of her artistic direction, Yasmin Sison began experimenting with abstract expressionism. Utilizing a rich knowledge of form and color, her gestural paintings included bright and splashy colors, expressionist interiors and figures that are rob of identity and individuality. What Sison aimed to achieve during this phase was to paint subjects that would complement her growing concern with form, space and color.
Sison then moved toward representational imagery and has since made a mark with her unflinching portraits of children, capturing them in their sad, happy, curious and playful states as well as their physical and psychological transitions. Over the years, her perceptive reading of her subjects, her strong and polish technique and her ability to connect with the viewers made her works memorable and even disquieting to critics, collectors and her peers.
She attended the University of the Philippines and graduated in 1992, having studied Fine Arts and Humanities. After graduation she was an assistant at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and then before devoting herself full time to art had jobs of teaching English, Humanities and Fine Arts at St. Scholastica and running an art gallery.
Q. For the ideas of your own exhibitions, how do you try to be different in concepts and executions?
A. I try to make different projects with each show but I usually make works that are part of a series so a group of work will be part of a certain thing I’m thinking about or working on for several years while some are about ideas that I have been thinking about more recently or have only pondered on and now am thinking of doing a project on. My works are mostly about memories so I draw my ideas from just about anywhere, from books I’ve read, magazine pages, the Internet, pre-school, my son, music and even the landscape outside.
Q. The works you have that are on exhibits and in private collections are mostly about children. Who are your models for these children?
A. I actually have more works and exhibitions of paintings with the figure erased from them. I started making the paintings of children when I started teaching pre-school. My models were my students, my nieces, nephew and my son.
Q. When you are in the process of working, who exactly is the viewer you have in mind?
A. Mainly myself because I’m the one staring at the work day after day.
Q. How long does it take you to complete one work?
A. Two weeks to a month or more.
Q. Whose style were you drawn to painting during your student years?
A. I liked to look at Alice Neel’s paintings a lot when I was a student and also Motherwell’s paintings and collages and I absolutely loved Julie Lluch’s sculpture. I still do.
Q. In the history of Philippine art, which works of past painters do you still find relevant today?
A. Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo, Galo Ocampo, Jaime de Guzman, Ang Kiukok, Onib Olmedo. I probably missed out on a lot but I haven’t opened my Philippine art history book lately. I find these guys relevant because I still find it exciting to look a their works today. I don’t find it dated and mostly they still have an influence in contemporary visual art.
Q. When you mature as an artist, which local painters had an influence on your art?
A. When I was starting out, I saw Elaine Navas’ painting of a papaya at an exhibit and I was completely blown away. I wanted to be her when I grow up. But I think Roberto Chabet has the most influence on how I think about making works for exhibitions since he taught us for almost three years and he made us do all these projects and made us watch all these videos and look at all these books and magazines when everything was still analog.
Q. What has been the best compliment said about you or your work?
A. I liked Lisa Ito’s blog about my exhibit the Punky Brewster Sessions. Sher wrote: “In the course of freelance writing for galleries, I guess there are times when some art works are personally striking (and exciting) in a significant way: not only in terms of exquisite visuals but also in their contextual significance to myself as a viewer. The works may or may not be overtly “political” in their imagery and themes, but nonetheless make good sense when understood in the context of these disturbing times. At their best, these are works that have the power to make us think of–or rethink–relations between prevailing realities. I think that was the case when I saw Sison’s paintings for this show.”
Q. Where are the Sisons from? Can you tell a bit of your personal background?
A. The Sisons are from Pangasinan by way of the Davao Penal Colony in which my grandfather was a supervisor. I didn’t grow up with them. I was raised in my maternal grandmother’s ancestral house with my grandparents, uncles, aunts, sibling, parent and several cousins. My mom is an environmental activist. My brother is a farmer, my husband is a visual artist. I have a five year old son.
Q. Is Cavite your hometown?
A. It is. I was born and raised here. Our family has lived here for several generations.
Q. Can you describe your working studio?
A. I share a garage type studio with my husband. My husband helps me stretch the canvases and we clean up together but mostly the studio is a mess especially if we’re working on something.
Q. Do you ever sign your name in your canvas?
A. I sign them at the back. My signature sucks big time.
Q. What is that characteristic that viewers should take note to identify your works?
A. I think it would be more exciting if my paintings change over time and with my own experiences and interests. It doesn’t matter if they identify it with me or not as long as viewers will look at it as a good piece.
Q. Do you think that your works will hold a place in the history of Philippe art?
A. That's not for me to say. Only time can tell.
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