The Work of Jose Legaspi


The strangely sterile finish of the paintings of Jose Legaspi and his child like scribbled drawings belie the nightmarish content of his work.  The Filipino artist describes sallow faces and gargoyle expressions of characters in a state of unnatural isolation and often free of discernible context.  Their stark surroundings rendering them specimen-like and ambiguous figures of macabre fascination.  The subjects of his work are familiar, even generic enough to relate to a wide audience yet their actions, expressions and poses are unsettling and often harrowing enough to compel far more extreme emotional reactions.  Their stark surroundings and isolated states are suggestive of flashes of memory or traumatic revelations rather than descriptive visual narratives.  Using muted colours, smooth brushstrokes and simple line, his minimal backgrounds serve to thrust his dramatic yet realistic subjects provocatively to our immediate attention.  Although Legaspi’s subjects possess individualistic features and recognisable attributes they represent universal types.  Representative of figures who demand unearned and often unchallenged respect, Legaspi is interested in the power dynamic between ‘I’ and the  ‘other’ and his work deals with vitriol towards those who symbolise oppressive influences.  The direct and confrontational nature of his imagery, with it’s startling lack of ornamentation or bright colours and it’s explicit, violent and sadistic content, is testament to the truthful sincerity and strong feeling of injustice in Legaspi’s mind.  Portraying these people as believable and human involved in gross acts of dissolute and corrupt debauchery represents the fallibility of his subjects as individuals and as symbols of society’s perversions and contradictions.

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