Ged Merino was born and raised in the Philippines. Although he studied Fine Arts at university he wasn't interest in a career in art until he attended an open house held by Manuel Rodriguez Jr, son of Filipino printmaking pioneer Manuel Rodriguez Sr. Here, Ged became very intrigued by the printmaking techniques his teacher learned during a recent trip to New York and he started to experiment with "collagraphs", silkscreens, etching and other techniques. Eventually Rodriguez Jr. asked Ged to work for him as an apprentice.
He is an artist whose work and practice has its origins in textiles. From an early age, he was attracted to colour, texture and the decorative details of fabrics. His process is spontaneous, intuitive and provisional. He has described working with textiles as an adventure. He is currently based in New York. Native Province caught up with him to find out more about his work and practice. Read our snapshot interview below.
A short introduction of yourself.
I am a Filipino visual artist based in New York although lately i divide my time between Manila, Bogota and NY. I also run an alternative art space in NY called Bliss on Bliss Art Projects which is a venue for emerging, mid-career and established artists to create and exhibit new works
You were brought up in The Philippines and then moved to New York, what made you make the move? Was it a culture shock? How? Why?
I left for NY with the intent to stay only for a year, to study with my mentor's brother. I also got a scholarship at the Art Students League. Midway thru the year I met a gallerist from Chicago who picked my work from a competition and represented me. A few months after a met another gallerist from Soho and ended up representing me too. So, I decided to stay on.
You work with textiles a lot. Why? What fascinates you with fabrics over all other materials?
My first experience with textiles was with my mom, she repurposed textiles and also did a lot of batik. But later on in college I became very interested with fabric when I mentored under a Manuel Rodriguez Jr. a Printmaker who also worked with textiles.
What would you call your style?
I am more of an abstractionist and I like working with different materials also. I basically started off as a printmaker then started to paint when I was in NY and for many years I switched back and forth. It was not until the round 2010 when I went back to textiles.
What subject matters do you incorporate into your work?
I like incorporating found and personal objects. I am always fascinated why people collect things and later on discard them. So, I collect them and as if in some way archiving them and/or giving them a new life and by changing their form/function.
Can you share three or four pieces that you are most proud of?
Kinda hard because I like most of my pieces, but if I were to pick three
Existence, 2017 Collaborative work by Ged Merino & Aze Ong,
the GedAze project at UP Vargas Museum
Transitional Object in Blue and Dark Blue, 2016
Transitional Object in Orange, white, Black and Red, 2016
You mention that you were influenced by watching your mother recycling old fabrics and re-purposing them - is where you learnt your primary technique? In your bio it mentions the technique was passed down through generations, is your art a way of paying homage to this and to preserve what could become a lost artform?
My mother lived in a generation where they repurpose, recycled and repaired things so her repurposing of fabrics and other things was just part of her daily life. She was creative in her own way. That and my father's storytelling sparked my interest in the arts.
What artists have influenced your style over the years?
I like reading and learning about artists so I find many inspirations and influences, but I would say first and foremost is my friend and mentor Manuel Rodriguez Jr.
My other favorites, Van Gogh and Picasso.
Does your Filipino upbringing influence your work? How? Why?
Yes it does. We are maximalists by nature. It’s like walking into a sari sari store crammed with food and objects. So I tend to fill up every space I approach too.
Do you have a particular routine when approaching a new piece of work?
I usually approach work as if I were painting, whether it is on paper or sculptural. I smudge colours and then start working and re-working them.
You collect personal objects/artefacts from other people - where do you get these from? Does know where the person where the object is from impact how that specific piece of work is created/ creates a certain mood to the piece?
My personal pieces that I incorporate or pieces given to me by family and friends have special meanings to me. Not to say the found objects I pick up from the street don't. They have their own special attraction to me as well.
Your works are huge and immensely detailed, how long does a piece take from concept to completion?
I like working continuously, my works are organic but will stop every now and then to evaluate. On average possibly a week or two.
Your pieces are layers upon layers, does this in reference to anything specific?
In a way it is like protecting/concealing the object but it is also the way I approach colour like I would in painting.
Can you talk a little bit about your thought process when it comes to your composition? As your work is an assemblage of different textures - is the composition through pure instinct or there is already a purpose behind "the madness"?
I usually start off with an idea. I do a lot of sketches. I will though follow instinctively where the work is leading me.
How have people perceived your work so far, (in and out of The Philippines)?
So far positive, at least the ones I hear.
What do you want people to feel when they look at your work? What do you want them to think when they leave?
Anything is possible.
What are you currently working on that we can look forward to?
We have 3 collaborative shows this year (The GedAze Project) and two of my own personal projects though not finalized yet. The collaborative shows are" April at the Drawing Room Contemporary Art, May is outside the country, can't mention yet due to contract stipulations and the third is at The BenCab Museum in Baguio in June.