“It is a tremendous balancing act to create a work of art that takes on real events without being exploitative” (USA)

For visual artist Chico Quizon, an unwitting introduction to the arts came in the form of penmanship lessons. This was at the Conception Parish School in Manila, and part of its curriculum was teaching students proper handwriting technique.

“I was given a workbook to practice, but I just drew all over it,” recalls Quizon. “I have been drawing ever since.”

A Quezon City native, Quizon moved with family to Alabama in 1989. Recalling a sordid memory of their lived-in apartment complex burning down, Quizon, 40, remembers waiting to leave for their new home in the United States. “Less than a week before flying out, the apartment complex we were living in burned to the ground and my family lost everything,” Quizon shares. “It was a frenzied scramble going from one uncle’s or aunt’s house, gathering clothes and saying hurried farewells.”

Quizon has since relocated to New York. From 2000, his work has been showcased at local exhibitions.

Despite their family’s share of tribulation, Quizon says he was fairly adaptable as a child. To its credit, a closely-knit Filipino community in Alabama eased the transition for Quizon’s family.

In high school, a teacher introduced him to the works of Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso. During the crucial “goofy, artsy” juncture, as Quizon describes it, he discovered the book, Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone. The biographical novel vividly depicts artist Michelangelo’s maniacal and exacting work habits.

“I kind of took that book to heart and believed every word,” Quizon shares. “I totally bought into the tortured artist idea and the fictionalized portrayal of Michelangelo’s work habits. So, for better or worse that novel made a tremendous impact on me artistically and personally.”

His discovery of the novel would later prove instrumental. Just this November, his first solo exhibit with mixed media works in “Hypervisual” brings Quizon back home to his native Philippines. Employing digital tools to his work, Quizon’s handmade work is made more unique and eclectic than the regular sketch.

“I have a fairly progressive view of art. I like conceptual art, video art, web based artworks,” Quizon notes. “So I feel that it’s important for a contemporary Filipino artist with my interests to create and show our art that is progressive and aware of current contemporary art developments.”

Despite a cognizance of an artist’s role in portraying his country’s social climate, Quizon admits he struggles in striking a balance between creating and commentary.

“I don’t know if I will ever be able to reconcile social or sociopolitical situations and the theoretical often times fantastical and escapist undercurrents in my work. That has always made me sad,” avers Quizon. “It is a tremendous balancing act to create a work of art that takes on real events without being exploitative. I’m hoping I reach that balance with a piece someday.”

Chico Quizon is currently brainstorming for his next show. See his artwork on Instagram at @chico_works.

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