If you had a fond memory of home that you could recall, what would it be? Whether it’s moving from an old town or migrating to a new country, Filipino-Canadian artist Marigold Santos attempts to answer this question with her latest art exhibit, Coven Ring.
The Concordia MFA graduate infuses elements of Filipino pop culture with witchcraft and boxing and hashes them into something completely new, with her own creative charm. You’ll see lovely, colourful, eye-catching artworks that reflect her own childhood memories living in the Philippines.
“My work deals with the folklore of my youth before I moved to Canada. So I go back to that and I incorporate it with my Canadian experience,” said Santos. “There are also memories that are fictionalized when we tap into them […] we start to reinvent them and change them, to fit our own needs.”
Some of these memories include a mythological creature called the “aswang” – a very scary schizophrenic monster of vampire-like origin that’s out to devour you if you’re out late at night.
“If you’re a Filipino child, you know how it’s a method (by parents and elders) for social conditioning,” she said. “An aswang is a character that has multiple identities, and you can see that in my work.”
There is an illustration that resembles a headshot of a witch in the dark with only a flashlight underneath.Look closely and you see someone that resembles boxing icon Manny ‘Pac-Man’ Pacquiao.
Santos explains that in a conversation with her uncle as to why Pacquiao keeps winning boxing matches, her uncle told her that boxing champions carry an amulet around.
“What was beautiful to me was that getting strength from a mere object that has power interested me [as opposed to training for hours in the gym]. That spearheaded the idea of boxing and witchcraft together.”
The exhibit is sure to illicit curiosity and fun conversations whether you’re born in Canada or have moved from elsewhere. The welcoming nature of the exhibit shows just that.
“When I create my work, I really am intentionally putting ambiguity into it because that provides many points of interests and multiple points of entry for a viewer to come in and experience it themselves and interpret it in their own particular way,” said Santos.
The vibe from the crowd on opening night was very welcoming. From an unscientific estimation, there was a mix of locals, out-of-towners, and people from the Filipino community, all wanting to know about the stories behind each artwork. Santos was really enjoying everyone’s company as she skittered from one group to another swapping stories. It’s these conversations that she enjoys—in them she learns and connects.
“I made lots of different [friends]. I think that [it’s] great. You open up and make a dialogue, and have an exchange, and people have different backgrounds and different experiences As an art maker you just want to have communication, and I think that’s what’s achieved,” she added.
Santos further explains that not just as a Filipino-Canadian, but a person who has moved from one place to another, she believes that our heritage is important to who we are.
“Picking and choosing and knowing what you want to hang on to is important too. You have to be open to that, stay true to yourself and then love your surroundings. It’s a delicate balance you have to play around with.”
Coven Ring is held until Nov. 24 at articule – 262 Avenue Fairmount West. A discussion with Marigold Santos and Zoë Chan will take place Saturday, Nov. 9, at 3:00 p.m.