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Pope Bacay

Selected interview excerpts from

Artinformal’s ALT 2024

Publication–“Materials of the Artist”

by Stephanie Frondoso

When and how did you decide that painting would be your main medium?
In the third grade, I picked up a brush to paint and really enjoyed it. My mom encouraged me to continue painting and enrolled me in art workshops. Since grade school, I already knew that I was going to study Fine Arts. At UP, I majored in Painting. I like the sense of freedom I feel when facing a blank canvas. I am comfortable painting, and the blank canvas makes my mind more creative.
Why did you start the abstract paintings that you make alongside your realist paintings?
My college professor wanted the class to loosen up, so for this exercise, I simply picked up available paints and made an abstract work resembling a landscape. From then on, I started making variations of this abstract on the side. During those early days, abstract painting was a break from the more tedious process of realist painting. It’s how I build my energy. Over time, my intention evolved. 

Lucy's Land, Oil on canvas, (8x18ft), 2022

Did these abstract works evolve?
Since the image almost doesn’t matter to me, only the colors evolved. My palette has recently become more pastel as influenced by the palette of Hanna (Johanna Helmuth). What I often see around me unconsciously seeps into my work. I am also influenced by John Santos, whose work I admire. When I am attracted to something, it will naturally influence my work.
Why do you sometimes paint on shaped canvases?
In college, I became aware of the works of Patty Eustaquio and Frank Stella. They opened my mind on the possibility of shaped canvas. The painting becomes more of an object than a picture. When I started applying the shaped format to my work, I started treating them as objects. Unlike the square shape that abruptly cuts space, organic shapes extend into the space and become a part of it.

Northern Soils, Oil on canvas, (88x75 inch), 2022

To make my shaped canvases, I cut marine plywood using a jigsaw power tool, and then I stretch canvas over the wood and staple it at the back. Because it is placed directly over wood, I use ¾ marine ply, which can handle the wetness of paint. My college teachers (Ling Quisumbing Ramilo and Leo Abaya) instilled in me the importance of material specificity that can provide the most longevity to my work.
Why do you use oils for the abstracts and acrylics
for the realist paintings?
I become impatient while making the realist paintings, so I want to use paint that dries fast. Acrylics and water-based paints have properties that make colors grow darker when they dry. This effect works for my realist paintings because it adds character to my subjects–the windows and structures, and I like that because these images are about memory.
With oils, the color stays the same. This works for the abstracts because with them, I am more interested in color. I play with impasto, which dries like minerals and stones. Even if they are abstract, I still visualize landscapes and try to capture their textures.
From simply enjoying it and feeling more freedom, abstract painting became a necessary practice so that I could produce my realist style. It has become a form of therapy to jumpstart a work, build momentum with the brush. In that sense, I consider my abstract paintings as material more than a finished artwork.
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