Filipino artist, Winner Jumalon, has been staying at our residency program over the past three months. In early June, Winner arrived without any prior indication as to what he would produce during the residency, other than the intention to "absorb the place, the new environment." Staying very focused and dedicated to the program, spending long nights hard at work in his studio, Winner has created an astonishing oeuvre of layered oil paintings, ranging in different sizes, including two large murals condensed with figures and images. All the images are portraits of people, objects, plants and buildings that he has seen during his time here and found inspiring. I sat down with Winner to interview him about his process, his unique array of inspirations, and his thoughts and feelings about his time at our program.
Winner admits that his experience here in Israel, has been that of an "outsider" peeping into a new culture, absorbing his new surroundings without actually integrating into them. In order to achieve this, Winner went out for walks in the city, looking around and finding people that triggered his curiosity. Without disrupting the scene, Winner followed his muses and photographed them in their natural poses. He then incorporated the figures and images into his paintings, playing with their poses to create meaning in the composition. For example, one of Winner's works out of a series of oil paintings installed in plexi-glass depicts a young girl holding an oil painting, that Winner saw when he was scouring the town. The backdrop of the painting mimics the oil painting the girl is holding, using the same blue-toned palette, and blurs the lines between image and reality.
On one of these expeditions, Winner went to a local church and took pictures of people as they stepped outside. Winner described his childhood in the Philippines as filled with memories of going to church and listening to stories from the New Testament. Even though he is no longer a practicing Christian, physically being in the actual district of where the stories of Jesus took place was a strong experience for him. He found himself drawn to a church in Jaffa, which he describes as a space of cultural diversity, that he used as a starting point to seek a connection with the foreign environment. In one of Winner's grand murals, he portrays several different figures with their back turned to the viewer, as if they are looking at something just ahead of them that we cannot see. "I wanted to keep it vague – the figures could be looking at some beautiful view, or something terrible, or perhaps they are standing before the Wailing Wall. For me, the vagueness portrays the irony of the land of Israel. Israel is a Holy Land, but is also at war. This painting juxtaposes unrelated people and portrays the tension between spirituality and violence," explains Winner.
For the first time in the Tiroche DeLeon Collection and ST-ART Residency Program, this residency was a dual residency with two resident artists. For most of Winner's time in the residency house in Jaffa, he shared the space with Moris, an artist from Mexico. Winner enjoyed working alongside Moris, stating that it was "a nice exchange" that was essential to the residency. The joint residency gave each of the artists the opportunity to discuss their process with another creative person. He describes his final month here, which he spent alone preparing for his solo exhibition, as time he kept to himself and his work, a time of reflection. Ultimately, the backdrops to the paintings Winner produced were psychological landscapes, an expression of Winner's internal reflection during his time.
Winner has met a number of interesting people and had enjoyable experiences during the course of his stay in Israel. He had the honor of meeting Nathanial Imperial, the Filipino Ambassador of Israel, who has shown enormous support to Winner and the program since Winner's arrival. On days spent out of the studio, Winner visited various museums and galleries, and even got a tattoo inked on his arm in Hebrew. His tattoo translates into "do everything with love", which somewhat symbolizes his gratitude towards the opportunity he has been given to have this unique experience in Israel. The new sights and figures merge into his psychological landscapes, the expression of the actual intersection between Winner and the Israeli culture, or what he terms his "alien surroundings". This encounter between the two "unlikely" elements, a young artist from the Philippines and the Middle-Eastern setting, has produced breath-taking artworks filled with intriguing figures painted with a gorgeous palette. The interaction between the contrasting and even alienated elements is what Winner recruited to produce his beautiful compositions.
Winner Jumalon's solo exhibition "I Come in Peace", opens September 8 at the Residency house in Jaffa: Invitation for exhibition.pdf / Winner Jumalon Exhibition Catalogue (Without Prices).pdf.
Interview - conducted and written by Melanie Stern. To watch the interview, click here.