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Galeria Paloma’s ‘Un|Tethered’ explores new horizons for Ryan Cayabyab, Basti Artadi, Barbie Almalbis, and creativity itself

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — There are some who might find the augmented reality-enriched works at Galeria Paloma’s Un|Tethered, the gallery’s exhibition at the recently concluded Art Fair 2024, rather gimmicky. Those who feel that way may have missed the point. 

Un|Tethered features several artists who aren’t exactly the first names that come to mind when one thinks of paintings, including the maestro Ryan Cayabyab, and rockstars Basti Artadi and Barbie Almalbis. Their works, when viewed through the mobile app Artivive, spring to life through digital animations and music overlaid upon the paintings themselves. For instance, Ryan’s “Eyefie 16″ suddenly turns into a three-dimensional piece, with glitchy text and reversed snippets of his song, “Tsismis,” added in by collaborator Jopet Arias. 

Eyefie 16′ by Ryan Cayabyab and Jopet Arias

Basti’s “Plagiarize,” which depicts a flayed man resting upon a bed of stone as birds watch him (an unsubtle reference to mythology’s greatest thief, Prometheus), shows his layers of skin slowly being stripped away when viewed in its digital form. Basti provides the soundtrack to her husband Martin Honasan’s “Rehoboth I” as it traces his process from scribbles to finished artwork in AR. 


Without any of the exhibit’s underlying context, one might get the impression that the integration of AR diminishes the artistic impact of each piece. The additional layers on “Eyefie 16” completely transform the intent of Ryan’s original painting, as if the work was unable to stand on its own merit. One could conceivably accuse the animations on “Plagiarize” of dumbing the work down by spoon-feeding its story to the viewer, while the AR implementation on “Rehoboth I” is akin to a BluRay extra — a cute little behind-the-scenes look at the painting but ultimately unnecessary. 

‘Plagiarize’ by Basti Artadi

Considering the intent of the exhibit as a whole, however, the digital layers make perfect sense, and in fact carry more meaning than any other element on display. Un|Tethered explores the realm of possibility, throwing creativity into uncharted waters and seeing what its creators discover about their own identities as artists. It is a show about conversations — between the artists and their collaborators, between the physical and the digital, between our preconceived notions of people and how they choose to determine themselves — and where those conversations might take us. 

“The concept of Un|Tethered came about in 2022, actually, when Galeria Paloma started exploring possibilities in digital art,” said Galeria Paloma Co-director Georgia Chu. “When we launched the digital artworks of Carlos x Isaiah Cacnio back then, we were so encouraged by its reception. Since then, we started hatching the concept of a group show of traditional artists venturing into a new medium, and this remained a concept until we finally mounted the exhibition at ArtFair Philippines 2024.”

Rehoboth I and II by Martin Honasan and Barbie Almabis

“There is so much freedom in digital art. I find that fascinating. Presenting this medium to an artist who is so established in their genre, and then seeing how they push their art even further with another form of expression takes it to another level. As the viewer, I also feel I’ve unlocked a door in the creative mind of the artist, and am able to see how they intend for their artwork to be interpreted or felt.”

Georgia’s sentiments were shared by the artists themselves, a mix of longtime friends of the gallery and new relationships. It was surprisingly easy, she said, to convince the artists to experiment with adding digital elements to their work. Many of them had already considered dipping their toes into this new medium but were unsure of where or how to start. 

The gallery then set about connecting the artists with teachers and collaborators on the digital front, producing works that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible without these partnerships, as well as reinvigorating older ones. Ernest Concepcion’s visceral “Mucky Muck” — a tangled mess of violent lines and deconstructed forms — has its story told in richer detail through the work of graphic designer AJ Dimarucot, whose constantly warping AR layers depict scenes of conflict and chaos leading up to Ernest’s original 2022 work. 

‘Mucky Muck’ by Ernest Concepcion

Other artists took on the challenge on their own, using AR to more fully realize their visions. Carla Gamalinda’s “A Soft Place to Fall,” for example, heightens the internal tension between its surrealist places of rest and a hyper-vigilant blackbird through animated confetti and bursts of motion in the bird’s crimson eyes.

‘A Soft Place to Fall’ by Carla Gamalinda

Viewed from this perspective, Un|Tethered becomes anything but gimmicky; it is instead a celebration of creativity itself. The curatorial intent is evident in the artists’ willingness to explore deeper into themselves through the use of unfamiliar mediums. What the exhibit displays is more than just a novelty of technology, but a testament to experimentation’s role in the evolution of art.

“Exploration and collaboration are the methods to expand artistic expression,” Georgia explained. “It’s natural and essential.”

“We specifically chose artists who are well established in traditional art with the intention of revealing that their creative talents aren’t tethered to one particular category of expression,” she added. “It’s shown that an artist is not limited by their mind and materials.”

Creativity is, indeed, boundless. As proven by Galeria Paloma at Art Fair 2024, harnessing its full potential demands that we break the tethers that tie down our notions of who we are and what we can do as artists. 

Working with the unfamiliar, ultimately, frees us.

adobo Magazine is an official media partner of Art Fair 2024.

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