#ArtdropSpotlight | Antonio Pastoriza
Almost all of my conversations begin with “how are you?” It’s an innocent question expressing concern to which people have replied, “I’m fine” or a close variation of that. The interaction is polite, possibly mindless, since it's been repeated again and again, to the point where such pleasantry might stop people from saying what they truly mean.
I’ll admit I’m guilty of using both those phrases. The one time I tried to answer with what I genuinely felt in that moment, I ended up spewing some long-winded, out of place rant about tiny pockets in women’s jeans (and that wasn’t even the half of it). It might have spooked my acquaintance but it felt good - therapeutic actually, almost as if I had just screamed at the edge of a mountain in Sagada.
Antonio Pastoriza doesn’t seem like the kind of person to hold things in. “I’m trying to be more vulnerable to my personal thoughts and feelings, to the things I truly enjoy exploring. If being open about what I’m dealing with through art makes things easier for people to relate, then maybe that’s the way I can help,” he says. Throughout the interview, he speaks freely about the range of his emotions and how his continuous exploration of it intersects with the unique, intertextual art he creates.
Before we dive in, can you introduce yourself and your work?
“Hi, I’m Antonio Pastoriza and I’m a 23-year old Cebuano visual artist. I’m a psychology graduate from DLSU and ever since graduating, I’ve been dabbling in the arts and getting into the local art community through exhibits, commissions, and collaboration with different artists and brands. Right now, I'm trying to pursue art therapy because it’s how I benefited the most from art and that’s how I want to help other people, the same way it helped me!”
Wonderful! When did you first discover that you had passion for art?
“Ever since childhood, I was always that artsy kid. I was known to always throw around all these colors, all these paints. Nothing I took seriously until college when I joined the official literary and visual publication in La Salle called Malate. We produced portfolios and magazines featuring different artworks, articles, photos, and poetry. I learned about the local art scene because we’d go to exhibits, talks, and gigs, all of it!”
I read that psychology plays a role in your artworks. Can you tell me about the influences or inspiration that you draw from it?
“There’s this interaction between art and psychology. I’m constantly learning about art history, art movements, art theories and techniques because I’ve never had a formal education in art. Whatever interests me, I’ll look into! I’m also keeping up with concepts in psychology even after graduation. The things I’m learning about are less academic and more therapeutic though. There are alternative approaches to psychology and it’s interesting to see how art and psychology intersect. I like being able to see both aspects when I’m exploring a technique. I particularly look into how I feel when I complete the artwork.”
You have a very distinct style! In your portfolio, you write about “repetitive mark-making as a technique, an account of the subtle variations in human action.” Is that a part of your process?
“Yeah! That’s something more recent, something I’m really into. I work on different series of paintings though. I’ve done collage-based ones but not as much lately. I guess I go back and forth, to whatever I feel like doing. Sometimes, I work on text-based art and sometimes, I work with stencils lang. My work isn't just limited to art though.”
“I made a few posters for the marches that happened in UP, last June. I chose to make them free to download and easy to print so people could bring them to the marches and post them wherever they want. Making art is important to me, making art that’s not just for myself. Something bigger than me and sheds light on the issues and problems that we all face.”
“I know that everyone has a specific style or brand, but it’s good to be able to explore and speak out about other things you’re passionate about! I guess, my art process involves a lot of experimenting, a lot of learning.”
“When I’m making art, I look at how the technique feels like, how other artists influence me, how movements inspire me - how I’m feeling generally. I can loosely define it as process-based art because process is super important to me. I would even argue that it’s more important than the final output.”
It’s interesting to see how Antonio connects aspects of psychology and art in his creative process. His process-based approach is one of the reasons his art continues to improve. Although he has been recognized by galleries and approached by art enthusiasts, Antonio plans to focus less on commission work for the next few months and more on refining his process and reaching out to different artists.
“It’s not easy living on art and balancing everything. I had a full-time job while working on art, too much art. Starting out, I didn’t want to say no, I didn’t know how to say no! I chose to fully pursue art last year, which was when the pandemic started! The timing was bad but, at least, I pursued it and got through all the things I needed to do. You can pour your blood, sweat, tears, and money into a project that doesn’t turn out the way people want it to be. Again, it’s all part of the process.”
“That’s also something I’m passionate about actually. I want to help Filipino artists through those situations. We don’t often get to talk about those and, as a result, we don’t know how to deal with those. We put ourselves through tough spots we shouldn’t have been in because we didn’t know any better! It’s a big struggle but it’s a part of who we are, as artists.”
Do you ever feel like there’s something lacking in the way people treat mental and emotional health here in the Philippines?
“Well, I think we’re all kind of aware that psychology isn’t supported or understood well in the Philippines. Even internationally, mental and emotional health should be [given] more research, more support. There are still a lot of stigmas attached to it and we still have a lot to overcome. I guess that’s why we’re here and why we’re doing what we’re doing. Personally, I’m interested in art therapy, because it’s something that isn’t well utilized yet here in the Philippines. Well, there is an organization I looked into - MAGIS Creative Spaces, do you know them? They hold art sessions and explore different approaches to therapy.”
“It’s hard for us to talk about mental health. We don’t know how to talk about it if we don't know what they are in the first place. Not everyone has the education and the resources to learn about those and, personally, I feel that it’s easier to address these questions and feelings through art.”
I really do hope that there’s more discourse on both mental health and art. There’s a lot of things people overlook when it comes to art. What’s something you want to share, something you’ve learned about over the years?
"One of the most popular artists here said that you shouldn’t focus on exhibiting.”
“You shouldn’t rush and do all the exhibits as soon as possible. You should spend a good amount of time in your space, making art that you personally want to work on and experiment with.”
“He said to give yourself a hard deadline, two years I guess, to make art as much as you can. Don’t exhibit, don’t show. When you actually do exhibit, it’ll be really good art. [My friends and I] didn’t listen! *laughs* We did a lot of exhibits. Even though I don’t regret it, I know that I’ve had lots of artworks and projects where I wasn’t happy with what came out. Of course, it’s all part of my process but it feels like [my art] wasn’t mature enough and looking back, I realized that I was putting it out for the sake of putting it out, not because I thought it was good. Really, everyone should take their time to align with themselves and…”
“Don’t put so much pressure on your art! Don’t force yourself to make art everyday because art is supposed to be something you enjoy or look forward to.”
Antonio suggests that artists find an alternative source of income to avoid placing monetary or financial pressure on art, especially when starting out. “Before, I’d put so much pressure [on myself] that I couldn't make anything! I felt so bad when I forced myself to make art because I’d feel like what I made wasn’t good enough!” Antonio exclaims. He tries to create art only when he’s in the mindset to do so. “Whenever I see something at exhibits or [come across] interesting techniques, I’d research and do it for myself agad. I’m constantly experimenting, seeing how things feel and look! I think that’s what keeps pushing me to make art.”
“I’m curious about the things around me and how they work! I give myself more freedom to do whatever I feel like doing now, and even though it doesn’t always turn out perfect, it’s all about the process and learning through it!”
Antonio adds that co-workers from his full-time job and artists from the local community have been supportive of his art. In his first foray into the art scene as an assistant and art handler at the Mono8 Gallery, he was able to get to know and speak with various artists about their processes and concepts during exhibits. “I asked them about their artworks while they asked me about mine. There was just this back and forth, and eventually, I became friends with them.”
Art truly is a collective experience, with its ability to tap into people’s empathy and to bring them together through shared thoughts and emotions when words or actions fail. Antonio’s own experience shows us that art is a way to explore the self and, at the same time, create meaningful connections with others.
“I just want to be open to everything, to learn as much as I can and help other artists along the way. Early on, it may seem like a competition but I just want people to know that we’re all supposed to help and support each other as an art community.”
Written by Cate Cue, Artdrop Creatives Team