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Rodel Tapaya: Urban Labyrinth

Co-presented by Ayala Museum and Arndt Art Agency (A3), Urban Labyrinth features 18 new works by one of the leading artists in Philippine contemporary art. This collection of large-scale paintings, works under glass and on paper, and video, teeming with fantastical characters and hypnotic imagery, depict the complexity of life in informal urban settlements in the Philippines.

Rodel Tapaya. Aswangs Enter the City. 2018

Tapaya’s body of work is the amalgam of close and almost investigative observations of his milieu, careful meditations on Philippine social issues, and diligent study of the research and writings of historians, anthropologists, and philosophers. Lauded for seamlessly weaving the folk and the contemporary, for employing multiple indistinct vanishing points in one enormous plane, Tapaya’s canvases blur our conventions of time and space.

Rodel Tapaya. The Market Chaos. 2018

His imagery and composition recall scenes from the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, 16th-century Netherlandish artist, and Botong Francisco, Angono modernist muralist. But the landscape or genre in Tapaya’s work cannot be described as gardens of earthly delights or joyful pastoral vistas. The visual lifeworld created by the artist is populated by ghoulish, surreal, ambiguous but identifiable characters, wreaking havoc or engaged in the mundane, among a cast of hundreds in his larger tableaux or isolated in his smaller paintings. Through the artist’s mediation, they are simultaneously otherworldly and familiar, conjuring our own anxieties, troubles, and folly.

Rodel Tapaya. Instant Gratification. 2018

In Urban Labyrinth, Tapaya does not simply depict poverty as a hapless condition, but an independent state where people live their lives and engage with one another. The viewer sees both the economic and the social layers, formed and delineated through the alliances or tensions between Tapaya’s characters, portraying a more intricate picture of destitution. Meanwhile, the two “Folk Narrative” paintings included in the exhibition depict the cultural attitudes that sustain these impoverished living conditions. In the end, they serve the same purpose as the myths and fables they appropriated: to allow us to discover ourselves and the valuable lessons in our allegories.

The exhibition runs from 24 February to 15 April 2018 at the Ground Floor Gallery of Ayala Museum. For more information, visit or email

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