The last time I saw Anton del Castillo was eight months ago. He, along with wife Christine and curator Ricky Francisco graciously gave me a private tour of “The Given Order”, his joint exhibition with Jason Dy S.J.
While walking the halls of the Lopez Museum, the trio shared the story behind each painting, sculpture, and installation. A lump formed in my throat as we progressed through the display. His works evoked so much emotions, I identified with the struggle and the pain.
When we reached the section that showed the proverbial rainbow after the rain, his discovery of God’s enduring love, I was holding back tears of joy – relieved at the happy ending, thankful for the enlightenment and hope.
Everything was an expression of what Anton was going through while he was preparing for that particular show, though he realized it belatedly. “I wasn’t aware while I was creating,” he said.
Similarly, during a period when he was having artist’s block, he came up with a show called “Absence”. His work featured an empty swing, an empty bed, an empty dining table. “I didn’t understand it while I was doing it,” he recalled.
“Artists are storytellers and turns out that I have been narrating my life,” he exclaimed, laughing.
So with that in mind, I became a tad concerned when he informed me that his upcoming one-man show is entitled “Void”. Oh no, what happened?
I greeted him with that question upon my arrival at the Provenance Art Gallery on opening night.
He assured me that he continues to be steadfast in his faith in God’s love. “This is the stage before my enlightenment, before last year’s Lopez Museum show. I want to show people the emptiness that I experienced,” he reasoned.
“Void” is Anton’s seventeenth solo exhibition, his first for Provenance Art Gallery.
“We really love his work. We were introduced by a common friend, Paul Campos. The first time we met was really just to get to know each other. Maybe Anton wouldn’t like us,” chided Provenance Managing Director Raul Francisco. “We’re a perfect match,” immediately countered Anton.
Another partnership that worked really well for this project is his tandem with curator Ricky Francisco. Yes, again. “He’s my favorite, I feel comfortable and confident working with him,” claimed Anton as he directed my attention to pairs of paintings and sculptures that Ricky put together. Tulong (Save) + Pagtraydor (Backstabber) and Sagad (Until the Limit) + Tulong (Save). “I wasn’t conscious about that when I was making them. It was Ricky who figured those out.”
Anton did not hesitate to disclose that the sculptures in the round enumerate the phases that he went through. Pag-iisa (Alone), Yumamot (Weary), Tukso (Temptation), Pagtraydor (Backstabber), Sagad (Until the Limit), Tulong (Save), Umaamo (Meek), Katotohanan (Truth), Kalayaan (Freedom), and my favorite, Grasya (Grace).
The paintings are all in Rococo frames. Anton goldleafed those in wood and he manufactured the black ones in fiberglass.
As I swept my gaze around the spacious gallery, Anton egged me to move closer to the set of three studies in mixed media hanging on one wall. “The show’s title is Void, right? This is where it really all started,” he whispered then pointed to a gaping space in what appears to be a family portrait. “I was unable to finish it, I couldn’t. It was too emotional for me,” he revealed. I got goose bumps staring into the masterpiece.
He once told me that he doesn’t mind putting himself out there and being vulnerable. “It’s okay. I don’t have the monopoly of these experiences, other people go through them too,” he shrugged.
While the titles of the artworks have English translations, they are primarily in Filipino. “This is the first time that I am using Filipino. I feel it’s more appropriate, it connects with me more for these pieces,” he reasoned.
In the past two years, Anton claimed that he has built a more powerful connection to his art. “Before, it didn’t come from my gut, walang hugot”.
“It used to be all cerebral – the aesthetics, the composition. But now his life is here,” affirmed Ricky.
“Void” runs until July 29. Provenance Art Gallery is at Retail Unit 2F9, Shangri-La at the Fort, 30th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. For inquiries, you may call (02) 9463236 or follow their Instagram account @provenanceartgallery.
Anton del Castillo received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Masters of Fine Arts degrees from University of the Philippines. This painter, sculptor, and multimedia artist had his first solo exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2005. He has since then taken part in solo and group exhibitions in Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, Malaysia, Singapore, Tokyo, Jakarta, and Istanbul.
You may follow him on Instagram @antondelcastill0.