Joe Datuin: Creating Art that Rings True
Updated: Mar 20, 2021
Born in Dagupan City, Pangasinan, Philippines, Joe Datuin is a leading Filipino visual artist. A nominee for the Order of the National Artists of the Philippines in 2018, he was awarded the Grand Prize from the International Olympic Committee’s Sport and Art Contest held in Lausanne, Switzerland, during the celebration of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was commissioned by the Philippine’s National Parks Development Committee to create monumental sculptures and murals at the Rizal Park and was recognized by the National Commission for Culture and Arts through the Ani ng Dangal Awards
Among his notable recognitions include the Presidential “Ani ng Dangal“ Award conferred by the Philippine President for excellence in visual arts (2009); the “Patnubay sa Kalinangan sa Larangan ng Eskultura” Award by the City of Manila (2010); “The Outstanding Filipino Award“ (TOFIL) by the Jaycees Senate (2011) and the “Outstanding Pangasinense (ASNA) Award (2012).
His works have been shown in both local and international venues in Asia, North America, and Europe. In 2002, he held his first solo exhibition abroad after being granted an art residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Vermont, USA under a scholarship under the Freeman Foundation Asian Fellowship. In 2004, he was invited by the Philippine Center in New York City and in 2015 at the Agora Gallery at the Chelsea District, NY, to mount a solo show.
Joe Datuin’s participation in major international art festivals is also noteworthy, apart from his roster of collective art exhibitions across the globe. In 2015 and 2017 respectively, he was among the delegates that represented Philippines at the X & XI Florence Biennale at the Fortezza Da Basso in Florence, Italy; he was also a delegate to the “Anima Mundi International Art Festival“ during the 57th Venice Biennale held at Palazzo Ca’Zanardi in Venice, Italy (2017), and to other Biennales and art expositions.
Nearing his golden year in the field of art and culture, Joe continues to contribute to nation building with creations and exhibitions that seek to teach and inspire.
1. When did you decide and what prompted you to become an artist? Please give a brief account of your challenges and struggles in your journey as an artist. Any role models?
JD: I decided to become an artist at a very early age while I was in the elementary grades in school. The inclusion of art as a subject in the elementary curriculum triggered my creative adrenalin. The inspiration and happiness I got from creating simple and basic art assignments was immense and creatively challenged my young mind. This has become the guiding path to my successful art career. Reaching my goal to become a successful artist has not been an easy journey. On many occasions I’ve had second thoughts on continuing on this journey because of the hardships I faced earlier in life. However, because of my passion, dream, determination and a belief that my art will bring me success and personal happiness, I continue my art fearlessly on all fronts – non-stop art making, interactions, collaborations, exhibitions, competitions locally and internationally – focusing all my energies in an endeavor to deliver world-class art and make history for the world and for the sake of humanity. This unwavering focus has brought me several accolades and achievements, camaraderie and given me enormous experience which has catapulted my art to greater heights in the art world. It has enabled me to realize all my monumental dreams in art – installing huge public sculptures and paintings in our public parks and government and corporate building lobbies – and touching and inspiring the lives of my countless viewers of my obras through private collections, awards, acquisitions, etc.
2. What art project(s) are you working on currently? What is your inspiration or motivation for this?
JD: My upcoming art projects include a solo show and a group art show in Metro Manila. The solo show features my recent and experimental abstract mixed media paintings while the group show features my “Mother and Child Series” sculptures in conformity with the theme. Unfortunately, I’m unable to share the images of these works because they are still work in progress. Instead, I’m sharing my three Manila Madonna Series here.
Manila Madonna, Metal Series 1, 2, 3 (2021) Stainless Steel
A Contemporary Thematic Art representation of Manila’s Mother and Child or Madonna. An art innovation and a retitled abstract series of a metal Madonna in this 21st century right here in Manila. A bold and unique Madonna transformation from the famous ‘marble made’ and classical Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Pieta” to Joe’s metal Madonna.
3. Contemporary art has become very diverse and multidisciplinary in the last few decades. Do you welcome this trend? Is this trend part of your art practice?
JD: Though I’m part of the modern art genre (I was born in 1956) which is now transcending to the more exciting and challenging contemporary art, I personally welcome it with great enthusiasm and pride. It is seldom that of an artist lives through two genres in art making in his or her lifetime. It’s a blessing in disguise that I’ve been able to transcend and experience two wonderful art transitions – exhausting my adrenalin juices in the creation of world-acclaimed masterpieces.
God First (2019) Stainless Steel, 1 foot high
The sculpture’s design is distinctive for its four main features: (i) its abstract geometric rendition of the Cross; which recalls the cross that Portuguese explorers presented to local rulers in 1521 – the start of Christianity in the country; (ii) the Ring which symbolizes the Holy Triune and the Alpha and the Omega; (iii) The Golden Sphere; which connotes Christ as the “Light to the world”, and on a parallel level, the country as “Light of Asia” in evangelization; and (iv) the sculpture’s vertical steel beam, which forms the number “1” and which reminds the Church to prioritize God in their life.
D’ Txter (2019) E-waste, Mixed Media, 6 feet high
Concerned with the country’s looming problems related to e-waste from the proliferation of discarded electronic devices, Joe created D’ Txter, a sculptural commentary on the benefits and pitfalls of technology. Born from a crowd-sourced project on social media, the monumental piece is a collective effort of Joe’s colleagues from Metro Manila and North Luzon who donated e-waste. This 21st century rendition of Rodin’s “The Thinker” ponders on resolving the paradox that is technology.
Dancing Rings at Luneta Public Art
This is the replica of the 'Dancing Rings' sculpture that won the 1st prize in the 2008 International Olympics Sport and Art contest (sculpture category) at Lausanne Switzerland in the celebration of 2008 Beijing Olympics. The original is permanently housed and exhibited in the IOC Museum, Lusanne, Switzerland. This replica, which represents Filipino ingenuity and global competitiveness in the arts, immortalizes, the artist's original work in the very home of its creation.
4. Does art have a social purpose or is it more about self-expression?
JD: Good art must have both – a social purpose and also have of self-expression. Social purpose is the soul of good art. Selfless art is shared for the greater good . . . inspiring many, not only its creator. An art that has social purpose is more meaningful and interactive - touching lives. Most of my art creations have a sense of social purpose, giving me great fulfilment and satisfaction in the completion of such artworks.
No. 1 (2019, Congress launch) Stainless Steel, 120 inches x 72 inches x 24 inches
Installed at the House of Representatives, Quezon City
Believing in the authority of the country’s esteemed legislators to bring about social change, Joe Datuin donated No. 1, a steel monumental work, to the House of Representatives. It interprets the four basic roles of Philippine legislators at the Philippine Congress namely: Lawmaker, Fiscalizer, Patron and Articulator of Interest. Moreover, in resembling the number “1”, it challenges Philippine legislators to pursue excellence by putting Filipino interest first and above all.
5. Where do you create your art (workplace / studio)? What is your process?
JD: I create my art, especially paintings, in my residence while I make my sculptures outside (which I call ‘Atelier’). In painting, the process includes brush, palette knife and masking to achieve sharp edges and kerbs. In sculpture, the process I use is welding and buffing (polishing) and also cutting, bending and folding of the metal to shape it.
Joe paints in his residence
Joe sculpts in his Atelier
6. To what extent will the world of art change in the post-Covid period – both in terms of what is created as also the business of art?
JD: The extent is only temporal – virtual selling of art is no match to selling art physically in galleries. Without the physical assessment of any artwork that is being sold or auctioned to the buyer or collector art business cannot thrive. Fraud is likely to happen, thus that will come in the way of fair practices in art trade.
7. Tell us about any other interest you may have besides your art practice. Does it get reflected
in your art?
JD: In the field of art of itself, I also collect artworks of my peers that interest me. My interest in sports, specifically Olympic sports, inspired me to join its prestigious International Olympic Committee (IOC) Sport and Art Contests starting with the 1980 Moscow Olympics till the 2012 London Olympics; I garnered the grand prize in its sculpture category in 2008 at Lausanne Switzerland in the celebration of 2008 Beijing Olympics! I used to play basketball and lawn tennis earlier to keep myself fit prior to making art. Brisk walking has replaced these rigorous sports right now because of aging . . . keeping my health in tip-top shape.
(All images are courtesy of the artist, Joe Datuin.)
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