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Tagpuan sa Ground Zero art exhibit reopens possibilities from chaos

“In physics, Ground Zero references the point on the earth's surface directly above or below an exploding nuclear bomb. The exhibition re-appropriates the trauma and chaos of this apocalyptic signifier into one of rebirth and renewal as a metaphorical starting point for new ideas and expressions. As we have become collateral damage in the aftermath of the manyfold implosions around us, we turn to art for healing and illumination, finding recourse in the regenerative power of collectivity and creativity to cast the light upon where we might head on next.”

According to Tagpuan sa Ground Zero curator, Johnathan Libarios Rondina, this passion project culminated from the need "to find ways to be of service to the communities I serve...", which in turn enabled "the opportunity to re/discover new talent and work with artists whose works allow us to imagine worlds of possibilities despite the chaos of our current realities."

Rondina shares, "Shifting to full-time gallery work this past year, I am thankful to Gallery BiG for allowing me to pursue passion projects by giving a platform in 2022 to at least 7 artists to debut their art in a mainstream art gallery. The featured artists from various Luzon provinces include Jill Aguirre, Τhet Fernandez, Paolo Gerero, Shai Lirio, Angelo de Luna, Cyrus Joshua and Emman B. Ola."

“I am especially proud of the artists chosen to participate in Tagpuan sa Ground Zero whom I met via the pink movement. I have high hopes for all of them, not only because they are exceptionally skilled in their practice, but more so because of their generosity, kindness and willingness to learn."

"Ours is a world with manyfold implosions everyday. We continue to navigate ground zeroes everywhere, all the time. Art teaches us to live meaningfully. Always follow your (he)art!"

The exhibit runs from November 1-15 at Gallery BiG, 4L East Wing, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City.


Cyrus Montano "Cy.Mon" is a contemporary Flipino artist exploring sculpted and assembled art. Cyrus holds a Bachelor degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management (Cum Laude) and handled major retail brands in the Philippines yet his passion in art persists. He went to create art full blast by 2021 and found satisfaction in being the maker of his own universe while also sharing his creations to the world.

Cyrus used to believe that he cannot draw and can only do sculptures, he tried to explore more of himself and he discovered his talent for painting when he got an invitation to a gallery exhibit in Gallery BiG's Tagpuan sa Ground Zero. His emerging talent still tries to let the reality sink in—how surreal it is that all of his artworks are reserved and got sold on his opening day. With this, he holds a promise to keep on creating art as the story of how his Ground Zero characters’ adventure will continue.

Cyrus’ art style has a post-apocalyptic setting with a feel of pop art, sci-fi and a touch of an abstract style of painting. Furthermore, he aims to relay a message of not taking things for granted, because, in his words, “we tend to learn the value of things once we’re about to lose it.”

In addition, he reiterated that he usually features young ones for his characters because we have all been kids. This, in turn, make anyone can relate. His art is for the kids of this generation as well as for the kids we once were.

Aside from the greatly purposeful messages he relays with the use of his masterpieces, Cyrus Montaño leaves with words that he wishes to be a fuel to other up-and-coming artists the world has yet to see:

"Don’t let others tell you who or what you should be. Just keep on believing in yourself and in the talent that God has given you. You may experience ups and downs but as long as you keep on going, you will soon reach the goal that you are aiming for. Don’t be afraid to be unusual. Always remember that being “normal” is the worst insult that, I believe, an artist can ever receive. Don’t be afraid to be you and let your freak flag fly!"

Angelo De Luna

"My art is inspired by just about everything in my daily life—people, movies, music, science, my moods, dreams and imageries in my mind. They express the ways of life as I see and feel them, the twist and curves as a metaphor for the choices we are presented with. The signature stylistic expressions of my figure works start with, and becomes completed from, a single line. I love to use familiar media like pen and paper when creating my lineworks, which make them light enough and easily adaptable on any space and even with other works of art."

Paolo Gerero

Paolo Gerero makes hand-carved wooden sculptures and mixed media artworks that represent the intertwining nature of their faith and queerness, drawing heavily from their practice as a "santero" or maker of images of saints. Through the queering of this practice, they tell personal stories of defiance, healing, and celebration of the self. Paolo looks forward to creating bigger, more dynamic pieces that reinforce their message of healing and self-acceptance, love, and hopes to work on public art that celebrates queerness and non-heteronormative identities. Their message to fellow artists, especially the young ones, is to continue creating from the wellspring of truth that comes from listening to the song of one's own heart.

Shai Lirio

Shai Lirio is a self-taught artist born and raised in Calamba who turned professional in 2018. Her passion for color and texture is evident in her works which she paints quickly and intuitively with oil and acrylic. "When I start to paint, I don't really have an idea of what it's going to look like. I just let the images form through the layers of paint."

Most of Shai's paintings have a lot of dark and warm colors underneath their sunny and bright themes. "My paintings represent my love for flowers and tiny little patterns. I grew up in a small town and had a very happy childhood. As a child, I would always roam around groves and slopes collecting smal bouquets of tiny flowers and it just simply makes me happy.

Youth is also depicted in Shai's works. Animals and humans are brought together in scenes that seem to take place outside any average conception of time. "Animals and children flying together reminds me of our childhood dreams and this is something that I don't want to forget. It's just so pure and uncorrupted. There is no better feeling when I am creating. Art feeds my soul and to be able to touch someone's heart with my art is priceless."

Shai hopes to give people a feeling of optimism through her canvases' sunny colors and form and aims to inspire people with her art as we run through life one struggle at a time.

Thet Fernandez

Thet Fernandez is a modern street artist and a painter who is also an English teacher by profession. Her signature works stand out with all the bold strokes of vivid colors amidst the gloom and darkness both in their theme and background.

Primarily identifying as a street artist doing murals and graffiti, she only recently found art as an escape from real life struggles. She officially turned to welcoming a career in the art scene in 2018, painting as she pleased despite a lack of formal training.

Thet started with watercolor but eventually eased her way to exploring mixed media and various styles in her works, throwing in every colorway possible but preferring vivid colors as her signature formula because she believes that rules do not apply to her art. She has since been more focused on making artworks even as she never thought she would become a painter.

Despite having colorful works, each of Thet's pieces tells of dark and deep emotions. Her paintings are strong narratives of solitude, self-gratification and self-worth, with vivid colors symbolizing her bright perspective of the world, despite its darkness.

As she wanders deeper into the art scene, her goal is to be known someday as an artist with her own style and to serve as an inspiration for other fellow artists who also wish to explore the art world.

Emman Ola

Emmanuel B. Olasiman, also known by the artist name "Ola", is a low-brow pop-surrealist from Silang, Cavite. His artist's name was derived from his surname, one that has become both a salutation and term of endearment for his peers . He graduated from Technological University of the Philippines Manila with a degree of Fine Arts Major in Advertising.

With his love for details and lines he developed his own approach in rendering artworks using pen and Ink. In his art, he mixes the style of low-brow and pop-surrealism as well as a bit of the macabre.

He mainly uses the colors of black, white, and red in his works and very seldom does he use any other colors. Most of his inspiration came from human emotions and he loves to give a heavy, yet subtle, and melancholic vibe to his works.

For Ola, it is important that we feel what the art feels like. He believes that it is vital for an artwork to touch the heart of its viewer, even if it may trigger deep emotions buried within their souls.

Although his character and name-sake (Ola) isn't a real being, he uses it as a symbol of human fragility, a wooden marionette that manage to free itself from the strings of its master. Through this figure, the artist depicts the struggle to move without the command of others, to be one with the self, to explore life freely, along with the struggles and hope one finds along the way.

Jill Aguirre

As a self-taught artist, I’ve always derived inspiration from materials that are accessible to me, such that my creations become unique and each a memento of its own time. The pandemic has ignited in me a renewed and deeper appreciation of locally available textiles, from navigating how to sew timely needs such as facemasks and cloth pads, to diverting to hand embroidery and crocheting - both as a therapeutic creative pursuit and as an easily sustainable and mindful means of livelihood.

For my maiden gallery gig, my mixed media assemblages are inspired by the many creative ways embedded in the Filipino culture that helped us navigate the pandemic with, allowing themselves beautiful, unique and mindful lifelines to survival. These are imageries of resourcefulness, dedication, compassion, grace under pressure, strength in numbers and community resilience – values and qualities that hugely stems from having to deal with things that are unfamiliar, including the unimaginable, and towering over them, in their own time, with openness to opportunities awaiting them.

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