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Digging Deeper: Ronyel Compra

Tracing familiar objects using traditional art styles, Ronyel Compra's "luta" pieces featuring his grandmother's house and other objects of nostalgia certainly make a dent.

Here’s Streetkonect’s little interview with the artist a week after the“Lakra” exhibit at 856 G Gallery.

First of all congratulations on your successful solo exhibit at 856 G Gallery. Lakra was well –received. We all enjoyed looking at the different luta pieces displayed at the exhibit.  We’re just wondering, why luta though?

You made a luta piece for Fortuna Circuit before, what drove you to make an entire set of luta pieces for a solo exhibit? What’s this predilection towards incorporating local art processes?

As far as I could recall, doing the luta of my grandmother’s house was originally what I had in mind when I started to try this process because I was thinking of extending the life of the deteriorating house, and conveying a visual narration about the place.  I even showed the very first luta of the house during the 1st  Fortuna Circuit last 2015.

It's also because  I'm always drawn to the idea of nostalgia and the thought of going home.  It's a very personal thing that I can't go away with. Most of my art making's always been that way; about my roots and the primordial influences and the visual feast in that actual environment where I spent my childhood.  I have this strong connection and memories that always direct me to choose local materials and local elements in my art.

2.     Does Lakra have collaborative pieces where you work with the community like what you did in Fortuna Circuit?
       In a way, the show is (technically) a community collaboration, still, because it was an accumulation of different ideas and effort, from the people of Tropical Futures Institute who moulded the concept to become a show, and also the people of Interlace who manually weaves the fabric by hand from the natural fibre, to threading and hand woven from a traditional fabric weaver.  And down to the raw materials that came from the province (mostly Buri palm from Bohol).

3.      Do you have any interesting stories to share about Lakra?

To sum up,  its all about my fond experiences of the place as a child growing up. Creating the works for this exhibit had brought me back to the activities I did as a child. For the lack of toys, I recalled playing with soil beneath the house, digging holes, molding and mixing the soil with water, the actual gestures creating this works were so connected with that feeling of being at home or a child's play. It was very personal experience doing this body of work.

4.     What’s your art process? What kind of habits have you built as an artist (e.g. drinking a cup of milk tea before going to work, listening to a certain album while working)? 

I always play random music in my playlist, from classical to rock, instrumentals to somehow set me to a certain high-level-mood and to fill my head while working. For this particular piece, I do stretching before I took-off to do the work each day, since imprinting the house is a physically laborious work.

I had to condition myself like the farmer who plowed the field working nearby while I was working on my luta. I had to go up climbing stairs, climbing the walls, digging up and breaking down soil as a type of paint, mixing and smothering it all over the fabric while under the heat of the sun. At the end of day's work I ended up smelling like sweat and dirt. 

5.     What would you say is the perfect space for working on art? Where do you usually work?

As I got into the practice longer, I tend to not rely on the traditional art materials like paints, canvas, and even the conventional studio space. Naturally,  I am so adventurous with my craft, and I get totally excited with everything new like new environments and new techniques and material. It gets me to experience new and fresh ways. I always keep my standard and expectations low regarding the resources so I could easily adapt to new space and could create anything that is available in any given space.

6.    What do you do in your downtime? What hobbies do you pursue outside your profession as an artist?

I do sports, like soccer, and if I am not doodling or making drawings I watch movies and documentaries. That’s what takes up most of my time when I am not doing something with my hands.

7.     You’ve come far as an artist. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self studying at UP? 

As a student, I over-think and overwork myself and procrastinate. I was being too careful not committing mistakes or creating bad works. Thus I ended up doing the cycle of overthinking and overworking in a limited time plus, I had a different perspective in life and in art then.

I would definitely tell my younger self that art is more than physical and mental work.  It is not about the self-image you build to be projected as who you want yourself to and others to see. And definitely not about the accolades and awards. But rather, it should be an innate spiritual practice that during the process is where you live yourself and the reward is all in that point. 

Questions: Tiny Diapana
Photos: Ernest Diño

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