Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Weaving energies" The works of Carlo Villafuerte

A quite & humble artist from baguio city Carlo Villafuerte is stitching every lifeless things back to life. a 32 year-old whose father is a carpenter and mother is a seamstress at a garments factory, learned to sew from his Paternal Grandmother. He would watch her pick up needle and thread (or the crochet hook) and observe her as she would labor the entire day. In Grade 4, a teacher once remarked that Villafuerte’s H.E. project resembled the handiwork of an experienced seamstress. Later on in college he enrolled in an Engineering course but transferred after his first year and tried his hand at Computer Science. Again, the calling for the Arts was too strong so he tried to transfer to the UP Baguio’s Fine Arts Program but was denied entrance because of one failing mark in his transcript. There was no turning back.

Villafuerte’s first foray into hand-sewn, one-of-a-kind functional pieces was in 2004. He would make bags and shirts and peddle them on the sidewalks of Session Road during the evenings. It was during this period that Kawayan de Guia (a member of renowned filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik’s family that runs VOCAS) had ‘discovered’ Villafuerte and encouraged him to further explore his craft. Back then, most of his ‘patrons’ were foreign tourists who took a liking to his painstakingly detailed pieces borne out from fabric scraps.

It took two years to amass the 17 artworks on display. (The numerous needle pricks on his fingers attest to the time and energy he poured into this collection.) Once he run out of his old clothes, he scoured the ukay-ukay for fabrics. Some were his ex-wife’s clothes that he cut up and included in his pieces. The found objects were gathered whenever he would walk his two sons to and from school.

Villafuerte stresses that when he starts on an artwork, there is no real plan at first. After gathering the materials in his room, he commences cutting up and sewing the fabrics. It is during these hours that “ideas just come to me”. Sometimes during a work-in-progress, when he feels that the piece is not going as he had first envisioned – “kelangan baklasin yung ginawa, tapos mag-umpisa ulit” (I have to dismantle the work and start all over again.)

There is an obsessive-compulsive feel to elements of his artworks. One will notice the equidistant spaces in his blanket stitches that evoke needlework samplers of the past. His pieces however elevate the homely craft of needlework into stunning art. On the whole, the artworks do not alienate the viewer rather, one is compelled to examine further the ‘stitching’ of images and textures into thoughts and feelings that these works evoke.

Villafuerte’s work titled “Clouds” is a profusion of circles of different textures and colors and sizes. It reminds one of a mandala. But then again, it is also Klimt-esque on second view. “Dreams” on the other hand was conceived when his 8 and 6 year-old sons told him of their, uhm, dreams. Ergo, unicorns and a cloaked agent of evil are part of the panoply of swirls and whorls and blues and greys.

All of the 17 artworks by Carlo Villafuerte have stolen the limelight at the group exhibit titled “Self-Distraction” that just ended last August 17 at the Victor Oteyza Community Arts Space or VOCAS at La Azotea Bldg., Session Road, Baguio City. Villafuerte’s framed works of hand-sewn fabrics with found objects are a wonderful respite from the usual ‘Cordillera-cum-Ethnic’ images predominantly made by Baguio’s budding artists. A mélange of polka dots, floral, paisley, op art, madras, tweed, denim, batik, cotton, wool, double knit, et cetera fuse together with metal scraps, buttons, stones, wire, and what-else, in artworks that are well thought out.