Reimagining Boro curated by Stephanie Frondoso

For “Reimagining Boro,” celebrated artist/writer and curator Stephanie Frondoso gathered artists that explored themes and materials highlighting economic resourcefulness and behaviors of the working class. Moreover, she asked for pieces that show ingenuity. The handmade, repurpose and repair, and how these principles entrench in contemporary artistic practices using different perspectives and methods.

The show’s original concept came from a conversation with artist Winnie Go about her Shibori workshop in Japan. Shibori is a traditional technique of indigo dyeing. Sometimes applied to fabrics using a practice called Boro, which is the artistry or brilliance of mending. Instead of exhibiting works solely focusing on the outcome of Winnie’s workshop experience, they decided to include the works of Brisa Amir, Carl Jan Cruz, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, and Maya Muñoz in the exhibition. These artists, in their own various ways, have been producing works with the essence of Boro, applied in a transcultural, contemporary context. 

Brisa Amir: Mending an Object

Ateneo Art awardee Brisa Amir uses her work to discourse environmental issues. While also exploring materials that reflect her life in an urban community. She usually uses spray paint, emulsion, industrial oil paints, and charcoal to render the marks, spills, and rust evident in the urban landscape. She also gives her audience six remarkable collage works made of aerosol, oil, graphite, and acrylic for this show. Two of these came from sewn textiles. Albeit sewing is mainly for creating functional wear, she uses sewing as a primary function to repair. She says, “When I am sewing my collages, I feel that I am repairing or mending a cherished object. So that it can last longer while keeping in mind that these objects are temporary, as human life is in the world.”

Carl Jan Cruz: The Endless Garment

A massive installation by designer Carl Jan Cruz takes center stage at Gallery Two. He recently presented at the group exhibition “The Endless Garment” in Museum X, Beijing. This marvelous installation comprises 21 quilts reminiscent of local blankets, made of fabrics developed with his team, in strips of varying weights, partially embellished with embroidery. He comments that Boro is certainly a sincere and practical craft as it shows similarities in the Philippines. Further, it will always be relevant, as it mirrors our cultural attitude toward handling, caring, and preserving.

Christina Ramilo: Boro Studies

Christina Quisumbing Ramilo did a series of drawings called “Boro Studies”. Drawn with dermatograph and colored pencils on paper, she worked on it throughout 2020. These were small works that allowed her to experiment with her collection of many types of pencils and inks. The piece “Labored/Laboured” used to be Ramilo’s work pants for many years. After the termites from her home studio cut a line of holes through them, she ripped them into shorts. Another termite-damaged piece of the gem is her work, the “you don’t die in one day, you die slowly”. Made of a large canvas, it was precious for having been brought back from New York and saved for two decades. She took the canvas found in fragments and sewed the pieces together, resulting in a brilliant piece of work. She says, “What is supposed to be a surface to paint on became the work itself.”

Maya Munoz: A Patchwork Quilt

Mixed Media artist Maya Munoz is known for works that tend to be symbolic and expressive. She presented a work consisting of a set of four text-based works made in 2021. She patched together with the series of 16 new portraits from 2022. While the texts are airbrushed using stencils, used on the portraits were combined latex paint from the hardware store with pure pigments from a local silkscreen printing company to manipulate colors and create more opacity. Built together into a grid, like a patchwork quilt, the artist plays with the idea of “stitching” not as a literal sewing process but as a putting together of recycled works made over different periods.

Winnie Go: Boro and Sashiko

Winnie Go, whose past works suggest an affinity for the beauty of nature with a curiousness towards origins and the concept of growth, stitched together found vintage textiles. These are with sashiko thread, incorporating them with repurposed celluloid, ceramic, or Bakelite vintage buttons in rare and precious shapes. Indigo-dyed with freehand stitching are some of the materials that she learned through her master in Japan. Other fabrics are cast-off pieces of denim. Then other woven fabrics are from different parts of the world, cut and resewn a few times. Also delicately put together so that each work reveals its own story. 

Stephanie notes, “Here in the Philippines, textile traditions—specifically handloom weaving and its allied arts and crafts including embroidery and beading— emanate from our ancestral tribes. Even then, it was rich in symbolism: tied into its function were the colors and patterns. Our use of textiles evolved throughout colonial history and the industrial revolution. Like the Japanese, we have a history of making fabric from our natural resources, such as piña, and using natural dyes. Today, textile function and design are influenced by the global marketplace, consumerist behavior, environmental concerns, by a mindset informed by technology and by the need for urban survival.”

“Reimagining Boro” is on view until March 17, 2022, at Artinformal Gallery, Makati.

Notes about the Contributor

Daniel Lampa

Art enthusiast and into Fashion, French Culture, Mid-century modern design and spends a lot of his time curating his home in Manila and LA. He lives with his 3 dogs, Coco, Yohji, and Junya.