October-November 2018

(click on all images to enlarge)

Interview Between Eileen Tabios (ET) and Matt Manalo (MM)

ET: I'm interested in some thoughts and/or preconceptions that you might have had before starting this mini or tiny works project. You had mentioned, for instance, that in your experience artists are encouraged to "go large." In your example, what was the rationale for that advice?

MM: In considering tiny works, at first, I had to take a pause. I was worried and excited at the same time. I knew I can pull it off but I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I agreed to the challenge because I always enjoy doing things that will question my usual, tried and tested art practice. I’m not a person who usually plans much to make something. Typically, I solidify an idea in my head and I just go and make. Through the process of making, I decide on what to add or remove. 

I believe the whole idea of “going large” was brought about by subliminal, visual languages and through influence by art professors: When I was still in art school, my professors always encouraged us to think of the “scale” of things. Whether it may be the subject matter or different elements in a painting. At the same time, we were also told to “go big” especially if it was in our nature to make something medium-sized or worked small. 

Another reason would be whenever you would visit a museum, artists like Yves Klein, Robert Motherwell, etc. mostly made large work. Larger than life masterpieces which demanded your attention. Even with my last visit at the MET in New York, you’d see a towering image of Mao Zedong by Andy Warhol or Chuck Close’s self-portrait. Whoever visited that museum will never forget seeing those two particular pieces.

The idea of “going large” was a message to us young artists where “the bigger the better” is the status quo. I did follow that advice. I understood the power of having work in that scale. It almost felt like you had a powerful presence. It fed your ego especially when you see people gathered around it and you compare a person’s scale to your work. It was almost ridiculous to me. Almost cocky. I never saw myself being one but the work gave me that feeling deep-inside.

ET: I'm tickled that the physical span of the exhibit is actually smaller than the exhibition notice itself! I've never seen this to be the case in the thousands of gallery visits I've experienced. What have you learned about scale from doing this project?  What surprised you most?

MM: I have learned that scale doesn’t shake my usual go-to’s with my art practice that much but it surely required me to figure out which tools to use. The process was still the same. It also reminds me of this viral video from a food channel where they were showing how to prepare tiny food.  

I was surprised at how time-consuming it is to make smaller work. I thought it was going to be make the process faster but I was completely wrong.

ET: Initially, you were going to do just one work.  That jumped to a series of six works. Do you think the outcome would have been different if you were doing one at a time versus knowing at the start that you would be doing as much as six works?

MM: If I only did one piece, I would have felt incomplete. I think the outcome would have been different because I wouldn’t check to see if I had enough resources to make five more or how I would consider the composition of the rest. Having to do all six at the same time helps me make the series more cohesive in terms of materials and processes used. 

ET: Please discuss the role of the strings in these Tiny Works. I think you said that they came up during the process of making the works.

MM: I normally use the strings for another series of work where the surface is wrapped with weathered tracing paper. It dawned on me, while making the tiny series, that I could use the idea of the strings. I wanted to utilize it to break the grid even more as well adding some tension to the soft materials I am using. It also gives the piece another dimension. I also decided to use wood blocks to have more variety in materials. Some of them are washed with white ink and others I kept in their natural state. I wanted to add a contrast between the softness of raw cotton and canvas blocks compared to the rigidness of the wood.

Here are two examples of works with weathered tracing paper and string:

 Grid 01 (2018)

Grid 02 (2018)

ET: Please discuss your work in general and how the period of doing tiny works might affect its direction. 

MM: I create work as a form of an ongoing journal in navigating the society as a Filipino/person of color. I continue to reconcile with my old life and my new life here in the United States. Because of this, I was looking for a tangible outlet to express my feelings, identity, memories, and newfound experiences while constantly redefining “Home” and identity.

 My work represents an abstract image of a specific place or memory from either back home or from my environment. I incorporate repetitive marks, shapes, collage, stamped images, and text on my work. They signify the amount of “to and fro” with flashbacks or conversations I have when making a piece.

Gaining experience and knowledge with making tiny work has opened my eyes to more possibilities in pushing my ideas further in terms of scale, resourcefulness, materials, and visual language. 

ET: Thank you, Matt! Thanks for your openness to making tiny works and I am truly appreciative of how their scale did not at all dilute the complexity of your works. Salamat!

Formation 1

Formation 2

Formation 3

Formation 4

Formation 5

Formation 6