Bong Delfin is a Filipino contemporary artist currently based in Madrid, Spain. Born into humble beginnings, born and raised in the Southernmost part of The Philippines, Mindanao. At 13 he learned how to print on T-Shirts using the traditional silkscreen technique, the money he earned with this skill he used to finish his Industrial engineering degree. But his real passion was in art and continued to create his own T-Shirt Designs. His inspiration came from the DIY culture of punk rock and skateboarding, “In Art We Trash” project, was a counter culture propaganda cliché in line with clothing and art of that time.
In search for better opportunities in life, October 2011 he moved to Denmark as an au pair. Fortunately, his host family were very supportive of his talent. In 2013, he was awarded the Artist of the Year award in an International Art Festival in Denmark. After this he went on to follow his passion and went to art school. Bong has gained recognition within the art world and has had his art hung in several art galleries across the world.
He is also the founder of “Dream Weaver Project”, an advocacy and artistic platform that is helping the local artists and boosting the contemporary art scene within his region of The Philippines.
Native Province had the opportunity to delve into Bong’s artistic journey from SOCCSKSARGEN Phillipines to Madrid via Denmark.
Bong, self proclaimed father of “Hydrodeepism”. Creating pieces using the practice of traditional printmaking techniques and intuition. His art much like an onion with a multitude of layers, we try and peel away to get to its core - which is the artist himself and what makes him tick.
Did you always want to be an artist? How easy was it to pursue this career - how did your family/friends feel about it, what made you take the leap to pursue your art?
Right from when I was growing up I always had a passion for art. I was frustrated with myself during high school and college as I felt I was not as good as others who were already winning competitions at national level. There are so many talented artists across the country and its one of the main reasons why I never took my art seriously when I was in The Philippines, but I was not completely discouraged I still continued my artisit practice in T-Shirt and Silk Screen printing, but at that time it was more about making money to support my education.
Six years ago I was given recognition as Artist of the Year in an International Art Festival in Denmark, this spurred me on to really pursue my interest in art. It’s never easy to pursue this career, I understand that only 1 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent will make it through. But it’s not about the money, I have cleaned toilets to earn money to support my art. I just do what I love to do and hopefully I can leave a good legacy out of it. I don’t want to leave this universe without a trace. I am always grateful that my family and friends have been supportive and proud of what I am doing.
Growing up did you get much exposure of art back in the Philippines?
Unfortunately, no, for me I grew up in SOCKSARGEN, southernmost part of The Philippines and I don’t recall ever stepping foot into an art gallery or art museum in our region. This is the main reason why I have created “Dream Weaver Project”, to boost the contemporary art scene in my region and to help local artists expose their art internationally.
What spurred you to become an artist? What are you trying to put across in your work?
Six years ago I was interested in incorporating social and political commentary within my work. It was mostly influenced by my Filipino identity. I have moved on from this and not solely focusing on this subject matter, I now put it up intuitively as part of my process. I am more into experimenting and developing my technique “Hydrodeepism” which is very much process based.
Can you share some key pieces and their story with us?
Acrylic, spray paint and resin on canvas
This piece is a key example to show the process side of my practice. To start with I do hydro-dipping and when I feel happy with the outcome I then use brushwork, collage, stencil’s to build more body to the piece. I usually work on 5-10 piece at the same time and whenever I lean towards one piece more than another I paint something relevent on that particular piece. It could be lyrics from a song that I have heard, or an idea I come up with while watching a random youtube video, or even a piece of trash that is on the floor of my studio. This is how my artistic method works, sometimes I don’t even know what I am doing, I just know how to do it. The subject matter is an afterthought and I just leave the interpretation to the viewer. This piece is an allegory of the Word “Requiem”
acrylic, spray paint and resin on canvas
This is part of The Selfie Series, a straight forward piece, no deeper meaning behind it. I just thought that making a Selfie (Painting Series) is a good subject to epitomisze our generation. Behind the selfie I inserted random elements which are related to the subject to make it more personal. I added additonal elements to build on its overall composition.
acrylic, spray paint and resin on ceramic
The process of developing this piece is the same as with my paintings, just using a different material. My ceramic pieces, are just like in the great old oriental days, they were designing ceramics based on their surroundings. I put together elements in my ceramic's that represents our generation and fragments of our time.
Which artists have influenced your style?
When I first started painting I looked up to Klimt and Van Gogh but along the way as I studied art history, my number of favourite artists expanded. I have different influences. My political side is mostly influenced by my Filipino roots, Banksy and street art/artists. When I was in Berlin I was greatly influenced by German Expressionism. The ceramics, I look up to Grayson Perry. I like Pop Art a lot too. The rest I am working and developing on my own, and this “hydrodeepism” process is something which gave me the urge to work everyday and gave me more confidence as an artist. It may be a common and a traditional technique (and almost kitschy) but I am challenged and motivated to develop it into high art and contemporary.
Is there any key subject matters that you move towards time and time again? Why?
The Selfie. I wanted to make it a long series of works. I just love to do it and it´s a timely subject that can best describe and epitomize our time.
Do you reference your heritage a lot in your work? How important is it for you to be a voice of the Filipino social/political situation?
I like to use texts in my works. Yes, I randomly insert Filipino texts, phrases and visual elements in my work. My early works were mostly socially and politically inclined subject matters. I had a solo exhibition, the “Dream Weaver” which is a homage to the local indigenous people from my province South Cotabato. Art is a powerful tool to voice out the political and social situation of our country. I may not use it as the main subject matter for a painting often, but still you can find snippets of political and social commentary in my works.
How difficult is it being a Filipino getting attention in the art scene especially in Europe?
I haven´t encountered furious and hardcore haters yet.
How do you go about creating a new piece of art? Do you have a specific routine? Do you have any rituals/habits when working?
As I mentioned earlier, my practice is more about the process and intuition. I create compositions like a creative problem that needs to be solved. I start my routine by doing this traditional method of hydro dipping and then I intuitively add different layers of elements on the painting by doing detailed brush works, collaging, stenciling, taping, silk screen printing, etc.
I have the habits of playing Youtube in the background and randomly insert ideas from what I see and hear, which sometimes has nothing to do with the subject. Otherwise, I start the painting with a subject matter in mind and then ruin the finely detailed image by dipping the canvas into a swirling paint on water to make it more complex and abstract. I do it repeatedly into layers until the paint sets right and I´m happy with the composition. The process is sometimes frustrating which is the interesting part for me, because if I know how to do it consistently I will lost my interest in it.
What style do you consider your pieces to be?
"Hydrodeepism" (hydro-deep-ism) is a personal ideology, artistic method and a term conceived by the artist from the term "hydro dipping", a traditional technique of printmaking which is commonly called "marbling", "swirling", "water transfer", etc. This method was used for a thousand of years, it is called "Suminagashi" in Japan and "Ebru" in Turkey. Regardless of the terminology used, the basic idea is by dropping the special paint or pigment on the surface of the water and transferring the aqueous surface design or carefully manipulated patterns to the paper or any material by the process of dipping.
Whilst it is commonly used for its unique monotype print, aesthetic and decorative appeal, the artist's interest is only focused on the ¨spontaniety and randomness¨ of the output. His main objective is to subvert the old, accessible and almost mass produced practice into something high art and contemporary.The subversion of the technique gives the artist a unique distinction between a painting and a printing.The artist´s body of works were done by the contrasting integration of the different techniques like hydro dipping, stenciling, collaging, taping and brush works. It is the artist's idea of portrayal of the daily constraining battles on how a 21st century artist make and develop artistic ways or ideals that can best represent his generation.
"I proclaim myself as the father of "hydrodeepism" and declare it as one significant avant-garde movement of the 21st century, like any other self proclaimed jokes and pretentious bullshit in the course of art history. =)"
Living in Europe - what cultural differences have you noticed? Do you miss anything about the Philippines, living and working in Europe has it in anyway diluted or enhanced your sense of Filipino identity?
Yes Europe has been a great influence on me, not just as an artist but my life in general. I started painting when I went to Denmark 6 years ago, so basically it was Denmark who brought out the artistic side in me.
Living in Europe in general has enhanced my sense of Filipino identity, to experience different cultures and different perspectives made me a better person and embraced my own cultural identity much more.
Being from the east do your feel your art is different to the west?
I haven´t been home for more than 6 years so my artistic life was mostly influenced by the west. I can say that my early works were different but as I grow and evolve as an artist I cannot deny my western influences. Nowadays because of the internet many of the artists in the Philippines are influenced by the west.
Your journey is super inspiring - you had a dream and you went for it - do you have any words of wisdom for future budding artists out there?
What makes an artist is life´s experiences. I have been (mostly) through hard times during my artistic journey. It´s never easy but one thing I´ve learned to make it more easier, just do what you love to do without expecting for something in return. You have to feel to live that narcotic moment of creative bliss while on your journey to your dreams. Money and recognition will come later. Carpe Diem!