The Bayanihan Philippine Art Project is one of the most significant explorations of Filipino art ever presented in Australia. It’s also the first time that a range of galleries across Sydney have partnered to present a thematically linked and audience focused program of exhibitions and events of this kind. Campbelltown Arts Centre, Art Gallery of NSW, Mosman Art Gallery, Blacktown Arts Centre and Peacock Gallery, Auburn have come together to celebrate the contemporary art and culture of the Philippines and its strong ties to Australia.
Cooperative, collegiate and eighteen months in the making, Bayanihan is considered a model partnership approach. When a range of institutions collectively enhance their capacity to reach new audiences, new ways of working unfold and relationships build. It should be acknowledged that support from Dr John Yu and the Philippine Consulate in Sydney, have also played a large part to ensure the success and enthusiasm on show.
Passion and procession: art of the Philippines opened at the AGNSW on June 24, Halo, a major commission by Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan opened at Mosman Art Gallery a week later and most recently (last weekend) the Bayanihan program kicked off in Western Sydney with the Peacock Gallery’s community infused launch of Balik Tanaw (Looking Back).
People born in the Philippines are the eighth largest non-Australian born group in Cumberland Local Government Area and so, community events in the area frequently feature aspects of Filipino-Australian life, including cultural performances and traditional food. Balik Tanaw seeks to build on these activities and provide further opportunities for deeper engagement and understanding of Philippine culture in dialogue with the Filipino diaspora in Australia.
The Gallery invited four Filipino-Australian artists to create works for the exhibition as well as to develop a series of related public program activities and performances. By interrogating ideas around feelings of dislocation and estrangement, and the related themes of nationhood, belonging, domesticity and the home, the four artists involved, Ernest Aaron, Alberto Estanislao, Jessa Melicor and Alwin Reamillo have created new work that plays with motifs of suburbia, place, home and identity to help unravel the notion and representation of the idea of ‘homeland’.
In one gallery, Aaron, Melicor and Estanislao explore the notion of ‘being here’ and the aspects, items, traditions and memorabilia that are typical of a suburban Filipino-Australian home in Western Sydney. In the other gallery space, Alwin Reamillo, an artist who works between the Philippines and Australia, explores what has been physically left behind, or is now missing from ‘being home’ in Australia.
Campbelltown Arts Centre’s Between Nature and Sin, a mid-career retrospective of Philippine-based Australian artist David Griggs, opens on Friday 4 August. The exhibition traverses painting, photography and film, revealing social hierarchies and underground culture of his adopted home. To be toured nationally by Museums & Galleries of NSW, Between Nature & Sin will include the premiere of Griggs’ feature film, Cowboy Country.
Blacktown Arts Centre’s Balik Bayan, opening 7 September, completes the Bayanihan program with a project that will see the Centre transformed into a gathering place of intersecting contemporary art forms – further celebrating and uncovering contemporary Philippine arts and culture.
Each partner has produced a range of associated programs to complement each exhibition.