It’s Not You, It’s Me: An Art Show By Tigz!’

Community Opinion & Analysis Nov 10, 2017 at 4:58 pm
Eric Tigley explaining his works to audience

Eric Tigley explaining his works to audience

Artist Interview: Eric Tigley

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos

Local Filipino Canadian artist Eric Tigley held a two-day art exhibition at The Freedom Factory at 22 Dovercourt Road in Toronto on Oct 20-21, 2017 as his prize for winning the Martkd shoe painting battle earlier this summer. The art battle took place at the Red Bull Loft in August and was sponsored by Vans shoes and Sharpie who provided the art supplies for the competition.

It was a pleasure to catch up with with Tigley for another interview after the launch of his illustrated children’s book Round Brown Blues, which was covered in the Philippine Reporter’s December 23, 2016 issue.

Tigley is a Toronto schoolteacher born and raised in the Jane and Finch area and has wrestled with questions about what it means to be “Filipino enough” growing up. His search continued over the years after high school as he learned more about his heritage through his research and the people he connected with along the way. In our previous interview, we talked about the challenge of finding his voice in mainstream publishing as a person of color. This time, Tigley shares his moments of self-reflection looking back at the art he created from a period of over a decade after graduating from high school.

The exhibition featured over 20 pieces including illustrations from Round Brown Blues, portraits, paintings inspired by Filipino culture and history, mannequin pieces, and a TTC series from 2015 about the different Filipinos he met on the TTC. However, the most curious installation piece was a small church kneeling bench with Christian karaoke, which required the viewer to literally kneel in order to hear the song. The event also included a reading from Tigley’s Round Brown Blues along with readings by Filipino authors Jennilee Austria, Yves Lamson and Aileen Santos, with music by August Rigo and food by Sean Santos, to share the talents and voices of the writers in the community.

Eric Tigley reading from Round BrownBlues

Eric Tigley reading from Round BrownBlues

The Philippine Reporter: Why did you choose this title for your art show?

Eric Tigley:
We’ve all heard that phrase, “It’s not you, it’s me,” during a breakup or something and when you have a friendship that doesn’t last long or could be a bit toxic and not always positive so I kind of looked at my relationship with my cultural background as a long-standing relationship. Family or even history, stories, narratives, food, music, all sorts… it just felt like something I had to really look at and see what bothered me about it or things that I had to get off my chest. The art show had all my pieces since I graduated from high school, a good 10-year period, and I noticed one reoccurring theme and it was my relationship with my Filipino identity.

TPR: You mentioned that you wanted to talk about what bothered you. What is the recurring theme here?

ET: With any relationship, it’s not usually one thing. The religion portion, economic austerity, language…just seeing the relationship of family towards each other or being balikbayan and going back being treated differently. All these things kept showing up and it was really how do I see myself in this giant mosaic of being a “Filipino” and does that even exist?

TPR: Let’s talk about religion. What issue stood out?

ET: How intertwined religion and culture are. It’s like you’re automatically Catholic if you’re Filipino. When you look at things like Sinulog or even when Magellan showed up and the introduction of Santo Niño, you can see how devout Filipinos can be. Every Easter, you hear about actual crucifixions that happen in the Philippines. It becomes something outside of what it is. We’re not talking about faith anymore. It becomes something much larger. People speaking in tongues or become so devoted they can perform miracles… it becomes something else entirely. It’s not — I don’t want to say solely problematic – but it becomes this very clouded description of how, why and what we believe.

From left: Ginette Claudette, Sean Santos, Sunny Wong, August Rigo, Tiffany and Eric Tigley

From left: Ginette Claudette, Sean Santos, Sunny Wong, August Rigo, Tiffany and Eric Tigley

TPR: Have you finally figured out your identity and this whole subject about being Filipino Canadian?

ET: Yes and no. The more I learned about it the more I felt maybe there is no typical Filipino and that’s something I’m ok with now. There’s no way to tag 7,000 islands and say there’s only one way a person can be. That’s not something to stand behind and say that’s blasphemy and because of that you don’t fit into my box because that’s very separating. It didn’t make me turn away or lose any sense of beauty as I have an affinity for Filipino imagery in my work. It also made me open my eyes to the idea that there’s so much more and that turned a negative into a positive.

Culture is always kind of pliable and we can even start creating our own culture now. It’s pretty eye opening that before we were colonized we were known as the island of the painted people and that Filipinos were tattooed from head to toe and you can see the commonalities between some other Polynesian countries. We know there’s this lost vocabulary but we can also create a whole new vocabulary of our own. We’ve been defined by other people for so long, so why can’t we define ourselves and not have someone tell us whether that’s right or wrong.

TPR: What’s one thing you hope people can take away from this show?

ET: That dialogue doesn’t mean an argument. Having a conversation means that we can agree to disagree. Sometimes our ego gets ahead of us and we feel we always know what’s right. If we could just take a step back and realize that through conversation and participation, new ideas can formulate and that’s all I’m just trying to teach and inspire. To have people walk away and know that they can create something themselves, that they have a voice that’s totally important.

For Reference: Eric Tigley’s previous interview:
http://philippinereporter.com/2016/12/23/artistauthor-interview-eric-tigley/

From left: Authors Yves Lamson, Ailee Santos, Jennilee Austria and Eric Tigley

From left: Authors Yves Lamson, Ailee Santos, Jennilee Austria and Eric Tigley

Crowd looking at Eric’s pantings

Crowd looking at Eric’s pantings

Author Yves Lamson

Author Yves Lamson

Group listening to Tigley

Group listening to Tigley

(PHOTOS: Provided by Eric Tigley)