Ryan Villamael’s Cascading Floral Sculptures Reconsider Maps and Identity — Colossal

Ryan Villamaels Cascading Floral Sculptures Reconsider Maps and Identity — | RetinaComics



Art

#installation
#maps
#nature
#paper
#Ryan Villamael
#sculpture

January 8, 2024

Jackie Andres

“Locus Amoenus.” All images courtesy of Silverlens, Manila/New York, shared with permission

Gathered in bunches and trailing like vines, Ryan Villamael’s paper-cut sculptures cascade through niches of interiors, history, and identity. Utilizing maps to create overgrowths of leaves, the artist addresses complex relationships between cartography and culture.

Based in Los Baños, Laguna, in the Philippines, Villamael focuses his practice on tangled narratives within himself and the country. Because his father had to leave home as an overseas worker, the young artist grew up without his presence. This physical disconnect was challenging and catalyzed Villamael’s fascination with cartography. He explains, “Looking at maps was my way of connecting with him, of tracing the paths he might have traveled.”

 

Old maps fashioned into leaf shapes hang in bunches along a stairway

“Locus Amoenus” at Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila

This fixation has carefully cultivated itself ever since, as the artist sees the geographic representations as a way to uncover familial paths and collective memory. However, at odds with this sentiment of reclaiming personal history, Villamael also alludes to the presence of authoritative geopolitical ambitions that perpetuate partial truths. He tells Colossal:

So much of my work, I realize in hindsight, is about a kind of mourning. To be Filipino, I feel, is to be constantly in mourning—for the heritage that was taken from our nation by colonialism, for the memories we discard so systematically as a way of survival, for the historic structures in Manila that are constantly demolished… That does something to a nation’s psyche, and it’s something I feel deeply.

Such longing for ancestral truth beyond the stain of colonialism is evident in the artist’s work, as meticulous cutting, folding, overlapping, and puncturing alters the printed surfaces. Originally working with paper out of financial necessity, the humble material eventually became Villamael’s avenue for the tactile transformation and reclamation of cartographic records.

From the expansive nature of the material to the concept of stitching together ideas of home, the nuances of breadth and space guide his work. Quelled inside glass cloches and proliferating across gallery ceilings, floral motifs and sinuous vines carry a consuming desire for the recapitulation of history.

Villamael has two shows opening this month: a solo exhibit at Silverlens Gallery in Manila and an installation at the Esplanade in Singapore. Follow his Instagram to keep up with his work.

 

Old maps fashioned into leaf shapes hang in bunches

Detail of “Locus Amoenus”

Old maps fashioned into leaf shapes hang in bunches along a stairway

Detail of “Locus Amoenus”

Old maps fashioned into leaf shapes

Detail of “Locus Amoenus”

Old maps fashioned into leaf shapes hang in bunches along a stairway

“Locus Amoenus” at Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila

Leaves and plants made from paper, encased within a glass box.

Left: “Pulô series X.” Right: “Pulô series IX”

Leaves and plants made from paper, encased within a glass bell jar.

“Pulô series III”

Leaves and plants made from paper, encased within a glass bell jar.

Left: From “Kadō Series.” Right: detail of “Kadō Series 2”

Leaves and plants made from paper, encased within a glass bell jar.

“Kadō, Series 1”

#installation
#maps
#nature
#paper
#Ryan Villamael
#sculpture

 

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. You’ll connect with a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about contemporary art, read articles and newsletters ad-free, sustain our interview series, get discounts and early access to our limited-edition print releases, and much more. Join now!