Inspiring young artists

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JAPPY AGONCILLO holds up a shoe he painted during the Shell National Students Art Competition’s “Virtual Art Interact” talk.

Shell Art tilt holds talks featuring successful alumni

AS MANY artists struggle today to put their work out — or even just work — Shell inspires young artists to keep going by giving them examples of artists who have made it, and continue to make it (art, that is).

In a partnership with Fringe Manila and Pineapple Lab, the Shell National Students Art Competition (NSAC) launched a series of talks titled “Virtual Art Interact,” a platform for young artists to talk about their work. The Luzon leg was held last week, and the next one, featuring Mindanao-based artists, will be held later this month.

Jappy Agoncillo, artist and illustrator, was last week’s guest. “Illustration is all about making abstract concepts into visual representations,” he said during a webinar. Along with him was sculptor Leeroy New, who talked about his experiences as an alumnus of the NSAC.

Mr. Agoncillo is a bit of a contradiction: an artist with a business degree. “I thought that art school wasn’t for me,” he said. He dropped out of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), and earned his degree in Legal Management from the De La Salle University. “It’s only when you leave the things behind that you find out how valuable they are,” he said. “Now, I’m happy. I don’t regret my decision to become an artist.”

He says that he draws his inspirations mostly from pop culture, saying that one of his first drawings was a character from the anime Dragon Ball Z. “Art was always my constant.”

Art being a constant is still true to him, despite the pandemic. He says, “It’s been very difficult because you just can’t go out anymore.” He’s especially affected because as a muralist his work usually concerns public art. His work has adorned malls, bars, and urban streets. “You can’t just go out and paint murals unless you have permits or anything. Especially me, when I’d do street art before, I’d just go out and paint, and people don’t bother you. But there are more eyes on you when you’re outside [now] and you don’t have an official reason. Doing street art is kind of off the table these days.”

Still, he added, “The concept of public space has really changed because of how accessible the internet is.”

Meanwhile, Mr. New exclaimed, “Grabe, 15 years ago,” realizing that it has been 15 years since he participated in the NSAC, and won.

Speaking about his experiences with the NSAC, Mr. New said, “It was something me and my peers looked forward to every year. It was kind of a way to seek affirmation among us students. It helped that there was a cash prize. That was very important to a lot of us students. We were keen to explore more about our creative practices, and needed the resources to do it,” he said.

“In a much more direct manner, it helps train the students. I learned to be able to talk about my ideas. With the prize, I was able to do more work.” Today, he continues to be a judge for the competition in the sculpture category.

Meanwhile, Mr. Agoncillo said, “Art isn’t just about yourself. It’s also about community. It’s about helping each other, speaking for the voiceless; it’s about being strong for those who can’t be strong.”

The deadline for entries for this year’s NSAC is on Oct. 11. To know the mechanics for joining, visit Pilipinas Shell’s official website, — Joseph L. Garcia