Arts & Culture

RL Spotlight: 5 Filipino Art Movements

A brief art appreciation course to help you know the art before buying pieces for your home


Most contemporary Filipino artists somehow do not want to be identified with any single art movement, in the manner of the Impressionists in 19th century France, or the early Modernists in 1930s Philippines, where the members consciously created works representative of that movement.

Today, a lot of the artists would do works that unconsciously or consciously shift styles with each new exhibit. However, for categorizing art style purposes, here are some of the styles currently found in a lot of contemporary Filipino art.  

Read the original article ("5 Filipino Art Movements”) in the September 2008 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details.

Social Realism in a Philippine perspective

What it is: A broad description on different artworks whose themes spew biting commentaries on socio-political issues of the country. According to art critic and writer Alice Guillermo, social realism reared its head during the awakening of politicized Filipino consciousness during the late 1800s revolutionary period and then again in the First Quarter Storm in the 1970s.

 Some of the artists: Pablo Baens Santos, Papo De Asis, Antipas Delotavo, Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Renato Habulan, Al Manrique, Leonilo Doloricon, Jose Tence Ruiz, the National Artist BenCab, Nunelucio Alvarado, Jeho Bitancor, Manny Garibay, Charlie Co, Mark Justiniani, Eugene Cubillo

Figurative Art

What it is: This is one of the most popular art movements, as figurative art is representational, meaning it is derived from real object sources. Early figurative art in the Philippines is mostly realistic and classical, but in modern times, surreal depictions of human figures and conditions entered figurative art. A visual mix of hues, and in some cases, irony are brought in to add drama to an otherwise commonplace event or situation. Also, figures and anatomy are distorted or altered.

Some of the artists: Early proponents of figurative art are the old masters like Juan Luna, Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo; artists during the war years and beyond included Vicente Manansala, National Artists Carlos "Botong" Francisco, Fernando Amorsolo; sculptors Guillermo Tolentino and Anastacio Caedo; recent figurative artists are Elmer Borlongan, Ivan Roxas, and Patrick Flores 

Abstract art or non-representational art

What it is: Objects from the natural world and also ideas are portrayed using color and form. Abstract art in the Philippines emerged after World War II; during this time, modernists were steering away from the more conservative style of Amorsolo, and finding new ways of expressing themselves. Modernists received plenty of support from two institutions: the Art Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Art Gallery.

Some of the artists: National Artist HR Ocampo's works play on Philippine flora and fauna, Fernando Zobel went through a period of painting black and white before returning to color, Jose T. Joya pioneered abstract expressionism, and National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva made use of all kinds of materials such as wood, metal, adobe. The recent generation of abstract artists includes Tony Leano, Lexygius Calip, and RM de Leon.


Conceptual Art

What it is: In this movement, the idea is more important than the object, and encompasses site-specific art installations, three-dimensional assemblages of discards and non-art elements, performance, and video art. It gives emphasis on the artist's thinking while the artworks are merely documents of the artist's thoughts. Some of the works are ephemeral or temporary, and therefore requires documentation.

Some of the artists: Mideo Cruz, Gabby Barredo, Lirio Salvador, Mark Ramsel Salvatus


Pop-surreal and Lowbrow Art

What it is: An underground visual art movement that is based on comic books, tattoos, punk music and other alternative-pop culture themes. American illustrator Dave McKean, though more surrealist than Pop Surrealist influenced a lot of young Filipino artists, who created informal movements within the universities. On the other hand, graffiti art, which utilizes spray paint and even stickers, which was influenced by the late Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the late 70s to 80s, has recently caught on with a lot of young Filipino artists.

Some of the artists: Polding Sena, Darrel Ballesteros, Nemo Aguila, Manuel Ocampo, Dondie Fernandez have Pop Surreal influences; Philippine Street Plan is a collective group of graffiti artists such as We Are Analog, Krayolaeater, Weewilldoodle, Caliph8, and Basurobot among many others




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