Artist Spotlight: Rodel Tapaya


On the occasion of a solo exhibition titled "Bato Balani", opening on January 21st at the Ateneo Gallery in Manila, accompanied by a book surveying his oeuvre of the past 10 years, the Tiroche DeLeon Collection dedicates an artist spotlight to another collection protégé: Rodel Tapaya.

Rodel Tapaya, 'Cane of Kabunian, Numbered But Cannot Be Counted' ,2010

Rodel Tapaya made his first big impression on the global art scene in 2011 when he won the prestigious Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation “Signature Art Prize” with a work titled ‘Cane of Kabunian, Numbered But Cannot Be Counted’. The work was lent to the exhibition by us and was the grand prize winner, selected amongst 130 nominated artworks from 24 countries. Tapaya originally caught our eye with this piece, while it was still in progress in the studio.  The Collection purchased it and only later found out that it had been nominated for the prize by one of 32 independent curators. We acquired this first work in early 2011 and have followed his career closely ever since.

Tapaya is today one of South-East Asia's most active artists, with past exhibitions throughout the region as well as in Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Beijing. 

In 2012, we introduced Tapaya to Matthias Arndt, paving the way for the artist’s current collaboration with Arndt gallery. Arndt gave Tapaya a large solo show at the new Gillman Barracks gallery in Singapore last year and will be showing him at Art Fair Philippines in February.

‘Cane of Kabunian, Numbered But Cannot Be Counted’ employs imagery from Filipino folklore, seamlessly weaving together multiple narratives and diverse allegorical references… depicting a giant canine saving people from a huge deluge and other ancient folklore stories about the origin of the mountains, rain floods and other creatures…Tapaya interweaves a cautionary tale about the greed and folly of man, as well as environmental destruction in the world today. The work has been requested for the 10th Gwangju Biennale to be held September 5–November 9, 2014 under artistic director Jessica Morgan.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer after winning the prize, Tapaya explained he had always considered “narrative painting” his strongest suit and had always sought to tell moral tales when he paints. His success in masterfully creating his unique style by drawing on the peculiarity of Philippine folk literature can also be seen in the two further Tapaya works owned by the collection, ‘Big Fish’ and ‘Mountain Fantasies’ as well as in the recent piece which will be shown at the Ateneo Museum exhibition, ‘She is from the Sky’, which the Collection has just agreed to acquire.

Rodel Tapaya, 'Mountain Fantasies' , 2012

Tapaya’s tableau often calls to mind the paintings of other narrative painters such as Le Douanier Rousseau, Hieronymus Bosch and magic realism from Latin America. The viewer’s eye can revel in the riot of colors and gain insight with his capricious imagination. He has adopted a succinct visual language that plays with associations triggered amongst the juxtaposition of elements present in the paintings. He turns the figures of his characters, mostly gods and fairies, into phantoms; haunting a civilization where they have dominion over but don’t fully belong.  As his paintings drift between figuration and abstraction, his figures occupy the midpoint between past and present and their liminal appearance with the grand themes of love and war are comfortably conveyed.

Artist Bio

Rodel Tapaya was born in 1980 in Montalban, Rizal, situated a few kilometers away from Manila. After winning an international painting tilt, he pursued intensive drawing and painting courses at Parsons School of Design in New York and from the University of Art and Design in Helsinki prior to graduating from the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines. Since then, he has had several solo exhibitions hosted in Berlin, Beijing, Hong - Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, and Manila. He has also been represented in several international art fairs and expositions. Tapaya is best known in Singapore for being the winner of the prestigious Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize given by the Singapore Art Museum in 2011. Since 2008, he has lived and worked in the province of Bulacan, the Philippines.

Among his achievements are the 2012 “Thirteen Artists Award” from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, being shortlisted twice for the “Ateneo Art Award” and winning a jury prize at the “Phillip-Morris Philippine Art Awards” in 2007. As a student in 2001 he was both a semi-finalist at the “Metrobank Young Painters' Annual Art Competition” and scored first place at the “Shell National Students Art Competition (Oil/Acrylic Category)”. He was also one of the 5 finalists in the “Nokia Art Awards Asia Pacific”. This gave him the opportunity to study Painting and Drawing at the Parsons School of Design and the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland. In honor of his many achievements he was presented with the “Ani ng Dangal Award” at the Malacanang Palace in 2012 by the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon Aquino III. 

Co Founders of the Tiroche-DeLeon Collection, Russ DeLeon and Serge Tiroche, in front of 'Cane of Kabunian, Numbered But Cannot Be Counted' 

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