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Life Jacket

Opening Reception
Saturday, February 23, 2019
7 - 11 PM at The Bakery
1670 Franklin Street
Vancouver BC

Exhibition Continues
February 24 - March 16, 2019
Gallery Hours 2-5 on Saturdays

 
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Welcome to Batan, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper 
5.5" X 8.5"

 
 
 

Ryan Romero completed a total of 52 paintings during his stay at Elmo’s House Artist Residency in Batan, Philippines. It was a time of transition. After stepping away from a design firm he co-owned and operated in Vancouver, he joined his then partner at her ancestral home in the Philippines and documented their experiences and encounters.

 
 
 

Laying Mash II, 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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Shirts, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

 

Asahi (dog), 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8" X 6"

SOLD

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Halo Halo Stand, 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

 
 
 

Sabong, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 8.5"

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Purita, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
6" X 9"

 
 
 
 

Self Portrait (descending stairs), 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.65"

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Asahi (fan), 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8" X 6"

 

Oxalic, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
9" X 6"

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Immaculate Conception Municipal Parish Church, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
6" X 8"

 
 
 

Asahi (dog) II, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
6" X 9"

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Reynan, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

 
 

His paintings catalogue commercial signage or hand-written epitaphs on family crypts. Portraits of the puppy, Asahi, boil with energy on bubblegum pink backgrounds. Quiet, intimate moments are captured. A green lace blouse lattices a woman’s back. The ill father of his then partner pauses, his face eclipsed with his raised hands. There is one self portrait, painted when Romero arrived in Batan. The pieces confront the acceptance of small daily moments through gestural strokes and bold panels of color.

Romero utilizes a vibrant palette of bright pastels. While Batan itself bursts with colour – he remarked on the vividness of sun-soaked pastels in the afternoon sun – Lucian Freud inspired Romero to channel Batan’s light, bright palette onto the canvas. In the mid-1970’s, the well-known portrait artist, Freud, began to utilize Cremnitz White: a dense, sculptural oil paint with a warm, yellowish white. The use of Cremnitz White allowed Freud to capture the dynamacy and variations in the flesh of his models, with colours that popped and brushstrokes that dried retaining the memory of the painter’s movement.

 
 

Plaza, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

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Bookmart, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

 
 

Bods, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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Candelaria, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
6" X 9"

 
 

La Tigre, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
7.5" X 5.5"

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Three Cats, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8" X 6"

 
 

Elmo II, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 8.5"

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Freud said, I paint what I see, not what you want me to see. When Romero began painting in Batan, he documented what he saw. After years of focusing on his design business, the return to painting was an attempt to ignore every creative instinct he learned from design: hard lines, considering the client, the meticulous thought that goes into each miniscule aspect of a logo, how to shape with the intent to resize in different ways, or to sell something. 

His sense of authority in his craft had dissipated. He had studied both design and painting, but he hadn’t touched brush to canvas in years. The intersecting lines of not feeling like an expert in anything and a fresh start in a new environment placed him at a point where he began to paint. He needed to do something, so he painted to make sense of his time. Elmo’s House allowed for the freedom, time, and solitude to start again, create without judgement, and be inspired by other artists at the residency. 

 
 
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Gate II, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 8.5"

 
 

Batan Cemetery, 2017
Synthetic polymer, India ink on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

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Sabong II, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

 
 

Self Portrait, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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Elmo III, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7"

SOLD

 
 

Crab, Mussels and Plantains on Banana Leaves, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
7.75" X 5.5"

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Pantalan II, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
7.5" X 5.5"

 
 

Elmo, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 8.5"

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Fence, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

 

Graffiti, 2017
Synthetic polymer, India ink on watercolour paper
7.5" X 5.5"

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Jeepney from a Distance, 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.65"

 
 
 

Scene from the Wake, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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Gate, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 8.5"

 
 

Painting allowed him to spill out of the rigidity of design into something organic, which had always been a part of him. As a designer, he worked to capture what the client needed and produced what they wanted. The act of painting allowed him to mine from inside himself and produce personal work that was lucid and responsive to the environment.

Living in Batan, he captured something that not many people get to see. There is an element of observing the fragments of life in a small seaside town from his unique point of view, but in addition, he shares his own life lived there: a calendar year of transitioning the pain of losing a family member, interacting with the local people, navigating the regional municipality, and immersing himself in a completely new botanical ecosystem. 

 
 
 

Kuh, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
6" X 9"

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House, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

 

Plants in the Plaza, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
9" X 6"

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Kuh III, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

 
 

Immaculate Conception Municipal Parish Church II, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
7.5" X 5.5"

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JLD Complex, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8.5" X 5.5"

 
 

Municipal Hall, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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Laying Mash, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

 
 
 

Memorial, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 8.5"

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Carinderia, 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
8" X 5.5"

 
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Kuh II, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 8.5"

 
 
 

Gleam, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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Pantalan III, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
6" X 9"

 
 
 

Snack Stand, 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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Pantalan, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
7.5" X 5.5"

 

The Prayer Warriors, 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
7.75" X 5.5"

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Steps, 2018
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.75"

 
 
 

Chic, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
5.5" X 7.5"

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There aren’t enough stories like this. Romero, as a Filipino and Filipino-Canadian, uses both mediums of paint and the binding of the book to navigate his place in both worlds. At a younger age, he felt he belonged to Canada. As he aged and searched for uniqueness within himself, he felt a belonging to the Philippines – but, it’s somewhere else entirely and the paintings capture a fluid narrative of home and identity.

 

Written by Violetta Leigh

 
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Life Jacket, 2017
Synthetic polymer on watercolour paper
6" X 9"