THE LOWDOWN ON THIS FLYBY, Dansoy in Boston 2019

Fly-By is Dansoy Coquilla’s 28th Solo Exhibition. It opens on May 4, 2019 and will be up until the 24th at the Boston Art Gallery in 72 Boston corner Lantana Street in Cubao Quezon City.   

Thirteen Artist Awardee Daniel “Dansoy” Coquilla is a fortysomething Filipino painter born in 1970 in the City of Panabo Davao del Norte in the Philippine South. He has been living and working in the bustling metropolis of Quezon City for most of his forty years.

True to his personality as a punny guy who grew up on the music of Yoyoy Villame and Max Surban and imbibing an extra dose of humor from the pages of Pinoy Komiks, all of Dansoy’s exhibition titles are witticisms on his signature top view work. In his titles are words like top, up, over, bubong, ibabaw, itaas, or balcony. In this show, Fly-By has a double meaning for this down-to-earth artist as he goes through life as husband, father, workingman. The multitasker is a fly-by-night artist with a time-consuming day job at the UP Film Institute’s Film Center. By day he projects digital and manual films in regular screenings, by night he paints.

Early in his career, Dansoy made a niche for himself in the Philippine art scene with his playful but truthful paintings of Filipino street culture in almost exclusive top-view perspective. He takes inspiration from things that most of us would deem too commonplace for art; isaw vendors and evacuating flood victims, banquets of food on the streets and sidewalks and the latest metro issues on water supply, flooding, and transport woes. A touch of satire is a good fit with Dansoy’s style as he ventures into societal issues where his cockeyed upward-looking painting subjects give voice to the downtrodden as it reflects on the high and mighty. 

How is an artist shaped by his sensibilities? Where and when does he find his unique voice? For Dansoy, it was in Cubao in the late 80s where he helped with gallery operations, finding himself hobnobbing in the backroom with exemplary figurative expressionist work of well-known contemporary Filipino artists Onib Olmedo, Danny Dalena, Antonio Austria, and Norma Belleza; and by helping out as gallery assistant to his mentor and father-figure Kuya Fred Liongoren.

Dansoy joined the University of the Philippines Fine Arts workshops in 1989 and became a regular with a student number in 1990, when Mang Larry’s in Kalayaan was the place to go for isaw. This became the subject of his large-scale oil on canvas plate in a class by Roberto Chabet. He remembers wanting to do a still life that was not the usual plants and flowers, and “kelangan top view to capture the grilling tapos pinatingala yung vendor para makita yung facial expression.”  This perspective reminds one of cooking demo videos, of drone cameras before they were a thing. Perhaps he was influenced by his then job as a technician in photo and video production. The art student solved a compositional problem. And thus, the artist finds his unique style.

There is one painting on this show, “Curtain Call.” Actors on a stage are caught mid-bow, hand to hand and looking upward. There is a curtain, there is a wooden floor. The center figure is wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask. Although still done in the same painterly style, the subject is markedly different from his previous focus on the ordinary-man-in-the-street. Because the artist finds inspiration from things happening in his life, perhaps we shall be seeing more painting influences from his Film Center day job.

While his work anchors itself on the compositional trick of the top view perspective, and while he offers us painting subjects from his everyday life in UP Diliman as a nine-to-five working man on his daily commute, he has been quietly stretching his creative muscle on the materials aspect of artmaking; experimenting with oil and ink on paper for a work on this show for instance, and making a new series of small canvases turned into palettes and then turned into paintings, where the subject is situated in floors like a mixing palette full of textures and colors.

Like a true artist, he gets excited by discovering new compositional elements to add to his repertoire. Some of his paintings these days are set on a tile-floor background, gridlike. “Like micro-mixing plates,” he says.

On his 28th solo, this artist still has something new to give.

 by Kelly Ramos