The ‘frugal’ art of Joe Datuin

'Tapat' (Straightforward)

‘Tapat’ (Straightforward)

Sculptor Joe Datuin is taking his work to the global stage with sculptures and mixed media pieces inspired by his childhood in Manila. He will be part of a group exhibit at the Agora Gallery in Chelsea called “In Reverie of Form,” from June 12 to July 2.

As an artist, Datuin utilizes simple forms, such as circles and lines that intersect, to reflect what he sees as a culture of tenacity and collaboration inherent among Filipinos. The interweaving of these forms is a personal interpretation of traditional Filipino weaving, which he uses as a template to form symbolic patterns that “represent the strength of family in the face of adversity.”

A former graphic designer, the Dagupan-born Datuin favors clean, immaculate lines and seeks to create a purity of form. This is also the reason that he prefers working with stainless steel, which he describes as an “honest” material that tells a story through its form alone, accentuated by its unique luster and clarity.

He also recently began working with mosaics, inspired by murals he encountered in Italy. Whatever he creates, Datuin said he hopes his artwork will serve as an emblem of hope and inspiration for people struggling to achieve their dreams.

“I wanted to portray the culture of tenacity and collaboration (‘kapit-bisig’) which is inherent among Filipinos, using simple shapes and forms that interweave or interlink, a style I call Filipino Fusion,” Datuin said in his artist’s statement. “My work uses simple shapes and forms because it reminds me of my humble beginnings and because I wanted to show that new experiences, outcomes and consciousness are formed when individuals, no matter how simple they are, collaborate or unify for a single cause. This is depicted in my work in the way new colors and images are produced when different forms and shapes intersect or cross paths.”

'I wanted to portray the culture of tenacity and collaboration'

‘I wanted to portray the culture of tenacity and collaboration’

He said his use of mixed media echoes traditional weaving in the Philippines, fusing a variety of elements.

“In the process of combining different materials, my artworks are able to form highly symbolical patterns – similar to textiles in the northern part of the Philippines, which is very close to my birthplace. For this particular series of works, I chose to create rhythmic patterns out of stainless steel and frugal shapes and lines on canvas to portray the truly unique Filipino family – well-bonded and strong against adversities.”

Datuin studied Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, graduating with honors. Noted artists, such as J. Elizalde Navarro, Leon Pacunayen, and Mario Parial were among his teachers. He apprenticed under National Artist Arturo Luz at the Design Center of the Philippines from 1977-1981. In 2002, he was a resident at the Vermont Studio Center.

'Madasalin' (Prayerful)

‘Madasalin’ (Prayerful)

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