In his new collection ‘Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,’ Carlo Tanseco revives the humanity that feels nostalgic in this technology-run world
We need a robot, but life has become so robotic. What we need is a robot from our past when robots were a dream.
Enter Carlo Tanseco.
Carlo has put together a new collection just four months after the success of “Ex Libris,” in which he showcased his personal, structural, compositional, even philosophical take on literary classics, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
In “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,” Carlo turns from the humanities to robotics, but in the hopes that the memory of the robots he brings back to life in this showcase of his new works will evoke the warm glow of humanity in the viewer who, like me, might be reminded of those great things we wished we could do with technology while technology, as represented by the robots in this collection, was only mostly a figment of our imagination.
Just unveiled at the Art Cube Gallery over the weekend are Carlo’s 12 paintings and five vase sculptures inspired by the android superheroes and the mecha robots of Japanese anime, which were all the rage while he was growing up in the ‘80s. The characters in his signature pop-surrealist style in this collection are, as the artist describes them, “all that the kids talked about and looked forward to at one time. It certainly was that way for me.”
Carlo grew up in the days of Voltes V and Mazinger Z. “My Dad had business that would take him to Japan, and he would come back from trips with toys, some of which were presents for us from his Japanese business partners,” he recalls. “My first ever robot was Gigantor, and this was clearly when my fascination with anything robot and Japanese began. Shortly after came Voltes 5 and Mazinger Z.”
What Carlo loved about these robots was the idea of transformation. The way things took one form after another to perform a certain feat or function in anime or the way different parts, as in Voltes V, could come together into a different whole with the resolve and the power none of the parts could achieve on their own, must have had a hand in shaping his childhood dream of being an architect, which he did pursue—and he did become—as an adult. More than an architect, Carlo is also a designer with an illustrious background in retail, product design, and furniture design.
His shift from functional art to fine art hasn’t been such a complete departure as in his work aesthetics and utility feed off each other. In “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,” for instance, the robot paintings are set against traditional Japanese prints on canvases shaped into Japanese kimonos.
Carlo is familiar enough with many of his subjects—which he had spent long, interminable hours of his childhood playing with or watching on TV—to draw chiefly from memory, from remembered ideas, from unforgotten emotions, from recalled sensations in creating his robot collection. He has also spent a lot of time of late expanding and updating his understanding of the Japanese aesthetic in search of elements that would resonate with the human condition, both individual and collective, in the here and now. These elements made their way not only to his paintings, but also to each of the five three-dimensional pieces he created for the collection. “I studied other (Japanese) crafts as well—Imari porcelain and their textile,” he says of his source of inspiration and artistic guidance, if only for the patterns providing each art piece an extra storied layer that is bold in color and elaborate yet delicate, lightweight, and elegant.
Carlo Tanseco is an artist on a roll, having come up with so many collections since the pandemic, because of the pandemic, as a response to the pandemic. His new home, the Munimuni resort in Siargao, takes the credit, according to the artist, who claims that there, on that teardrop-shaped island on the Philippine Sea in Surigao del Norte, particularly in the resort he and his partners named after the Tagalog word for self-reflection, for pondering, for meditation or contemplation, “I have the luxury of time to daydream, to be introspective, and at this point in my life, to reminisce on what has made me who I am now. I go by the chapters of what my influences were in the years that make up who I am today.” But he attributes his creative productivity not only to Siargao but also to his innate propensity to always outdo his last body of work.
“Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,” which was launched on Oct. 8, is on view at Art Cube Gallery at OPVI Centre, 2295 Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City, Philippines. www.artcubephilippines.com
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