Juxtapozitions

 

“What’s life like abroad?” That’s the second most-frequently asked question I hear after returning from living in Barcelona for over three years.

The most frequently asked question? “Why did you come back?”

That’s the subject for another blog post.

What life is like abroad is what I will be writing about for now, and the answer is not so simple.

I thought to try to answer the question with words, but instead, I’ve chosen to answer it with pictures, beginning with one I captured during my first week in Barcelona:

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This old woman was sleeping inside an ATM booth…many homeless seek shelter in these during the winter

That photo was taken just a few weeks after this one:

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A common sight in Manila where every stoop, alcove, bench, over or underpass becomes a makeshift shelter. Or toilet.

And seeing the similarity in appearance, if not in circumstance, brought to mind Juxtapozitions, a photo project which will be the first (of four) creative projects I plan to launch this year.

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As the title suggests, Juxtapozitions visually juxtaposes life in the Philippines and Europe. (If you’re curious as to why I misspell the word, it’s merely for social media purposes. If you check the hashtag #juxtapozitions, majority of it will be my images. For whatever that’s worth.) Mostly from Barcelona, of course, because that’s where I lived most of the time, but also other Spanish cities including Granada, Girona, and La PalmaI also traveled to the Amsterdam, Venice, Paris, Prague, and Toulon a couple of times.

Taken over a period of around three years, most of these were photos weren’t taken with this photo project in mind. But after going over my visual memory bank, I repeatedly come across photos that had visual or contextual similarities–for example, female fishmongers in the La Boqueria and a wet market in Aurora, Baler:

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Or the waiting area in the Oficina de Extranjeria de Barcelona (foreigners’ office) and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila:

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or Catalan children sitting on a curb during an FC Barcelona victory parade, and some Filipino boys just hanging out outside a sari-sari store during a holiday:

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Incidentally, a week before I left Barcelona, the Spanish National Guard assaulted Catalans who were seeking independence from Spain, or at least the right to hold a referendum to do so. I found this ironic as around 150 years earlier, Spanish soldiers executed Filipinos fighting for independence from the Spanish empire :

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Photos taken from the Guardian and Wikipedia

In the photobook, I desaturate some of the photos to minimise the distinction between the two worlds.

 

So Juxtapozitions is one way I’ve chosen to answer the complex question, albeit to a very limited extent. By capturing parallels between life on opposite sides of the planet, a planet that seems to grow smaller with every leap forward in transport and information technology, I hope to provide some insight into what living in a culture and society that is so different–yet in some ways similar–to the one I grew up in, is like.

And if there’s any insight that I’ve gained during all those three years it would be these three: 

People are inherently good

Anne Frank said it first. Without people I never would have made it. Not just once, but many times over. This doesn’t mean there aren’t absolute shits out there, there are, and keep away from them by all means. But they most likely didn’t start out that way. I’ve met some amazing and generous people, who didn’t know me at all and didn’t have anything to gain, but went out of their way, who offered help when I needed it so badly.

It takes three to five years

It takes at least three to five years to feel at home in a new place. If you’re lucky. Barcelona is a melting pot, like New York, Paris, or any other major metropolis, and I’ve encountered people from literally all over, but all of them come to the city to live, drawn by its warm climate, endless beaches, and vibrant culture. Some come to study then tried to transition to work, as I did. And like myself, many don’t speak Spanish, or Catalan for that matter. And language is a huge badge that declares you as either a local or a tourist. And there’s the matter of employment. I’ve lived with people who’ve moved from other Spanish cities to find work, only to go back because the financial crisis meant that lucrative opportunities were scarce all around. And friendships need time to grow. It’s more difficult to make friends when you’re older, people are busy or already have their sets of friends, and in a transitory city like Barcelona, people are coming and going all the time.

People are basically the same

Finally, despite everything, people are basically the same. We have the same motivations, the same wants, the same fears. Being indoctrinated at an early age I carried the burden of colonial mentality. I believed that everything from abroad was better, that people from Europe were the epitome of culture, intelligence, and sophistication. That they lived perfect, worry-free lives where they had free quality education, health care, fast internet, no crime or hunger, and everyone’s fart smelled like roses. Needless to say, it was a rather rude awakening.

And in the end, I suppose that’s what I’m trying to point out with Juxtapozitions, that we are the same, you and I. And that no matter where you go, your experience of a place is defined by the people that live in it.


To see previews of the Juxtapozitions photobook, you may check my Instagram or twitter under the hashtag #juxtapozitions.

If you’d like to order a copy, send me an email at pinoyartista(at)gmail. I accept payments via Paypal.

Book details:

52 color & B&W pages
18 x 18 cm

Hardcover dustjacket:
USD 87 / PhP 4500 / 75€

Glossy Softcover:
USD 75 / PhP 3900 / 65€

Limited to 500 copies

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Star in Your Own Comic

Are you or anyone you know into the Golden Age of comic books?

Have you ever wanted to appear in one? Now you can make this fantasy a reality.

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Or the guy on the right. It’s totally up to you!

Beginning February I will be available for personalised comic commissions. As this is a side hustle, I will only be doing up to three a month.

With personalised comics you–or the person of your choice–will star in a vintage, black and white, classic comic scene. It could be an action pin up (as pictured), a romance, or a panelled page with a storyline that you provide.

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Ever dreamed of rescuing dogs in distress from a burning building? Now you can

You will receive the final product printed on a3 or a4 canvas, ready for display.

Order your Personalised Comic before the 29th of February and and get 15% off!

More details here.

If you would happen to know anyone who’d be interested, do share this with them before slots run out!

 

What Am I Doing Here?

It is with the appropriate amount of pleasure that I announce my first exhibition in Barcelona.

Spanning eighteen months and four countries, “What Am I Doing Here” is a retrospective of the works created over the past eighteen months since I arrived in Europe. It will include drawings, paintings, photographs, and screen and letterpress prints created in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, and Las Palmas.

The exhibition will be on the 15th of April, at l’Atelier, a small but cozy bakeshop in Carrer del Joncar 29, Poble Nou, at 19.00h.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/1100828233308657/

Exhibition catalog available upon request.

Tengo el placer de invitarte a mi primera exposición en Barcelona.

“¿Por Qué Estoy Aquí?” es la primera exposición individual de José Gamboa en España. Una retrospectiva que abarca dieciocho meses y cuatro países, que incluye ilustraciones, impresiones de pantalla y tipografía, pinturas y fotografías.

Con concierto musical de Guillermo Ayora
(https://www.facebook.com/ayoramusica)

Catálogo de la exposición disponibles a petición.
La exposición tendrá una duración de un mes.

Looking forward to seeing you there / Espero verlos a todos allí,

Jose


 

Above is the invitation text I wrote for my exhibit which is happening next week.

Below is a preview of some of the works that will be on display:

Aside from recently completed #BowieForever series, “What Am I Doing Here” will include:

Illustrations

#saturdayshorts: Trololo #Timelapse #barcelonabarrios #architypography

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

Paintings

 

Photographs

#Windowshopping at #DeWallen #Amsterdam #PinoyArtista #travelink #tattoo

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

Mono Screenprints

 

Portraits

Can you imagine who I am? #doinglineskeepsmesane

A post shared by Jose Gamboa (@pinoyartista) on

 

Six days away, there is still a lot that needs to be done. And unlike other exhibitions I’ve organised before, this is my first solo show–literally: I have had to everything, from booking the venue, conceptualisation, curation, funding, promotion, framing, mounting, and more.

 

Let’s see how it goes.

 

 

#BowieForever

Back in December 2015, I had gotten it on (what I believed at the time to be) good authority that David Bowie was coming to Primavera Sound 2016. The prospect of seeing a creative genius of his calibre live so excited me that despite my source’s admonition not to spread the word, I could not help myself:

 

 

Getting into the whole Bowie vibe, I started learning how to play his songs on the guitar, and began researching which day he would perform in Barcelona. Even my sister who was half a world away seemed to be channeling the Thin White Duke:

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Less than two weeks later, The Man Who Fell To Earth returned to the stars.

 

To be honest, I am not a hardcore Bowie fan, in fact, I was a new one. I didn’t realise it was his birthday or listened to Blackstar until after he had already died.

Then there was that series of highly-publicised deaths that first few days of 2016: Scott Weiland, Lemmy, Alan Rickman, Maurice White. Then Aaron Swartz and Dave Mirra.

But it was the building anticipation of seeing David Bowie live, that whole ‘you might not get another chance’ feeling, then to have it suddenly vanish, that made his death strike a chord. And to make things even more odd, here is where I spent the 1st of January (playing the guitar, to boot):

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Photo by Nicolas Riente

This inexplicable series of events compelled me to create what will be the #BowieForever series. The series will consist of six limited edition mono screeprints and shirts which will be released over the course of several weeks.

#BowieForever Screenprints

BowieForever

Each mono screenprint is numbered, printed on 300 gsm watercolour paper and signed by Jose Gamboa with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Order

We Could Be Heroes

31 x 49 cm Mono Screenprint
Edition of 7

Order

 

Bowie Forever

31 x 49 cm Mono Screenprint
Edition of 7

Order

 

Starman

31 x 49 cm Mono Screenprint

Edition of 7

Order

Spaceman

29.7 x 42 cm Mono Screenprint

Edition of 7

Order

Stardust

29.7 x 42 cm Mono Screenprint

Edition of 7

Order

#BowieForever Ultralimited Edition Tees

 

Available sizes are M and L and XL (depending on availability) and printed on 100% cotton tees. Each tee is signed by Jose Gamboa. Edition of Fifteen.

Order

As I created each design (while listening to the mournfully brilliant Blackstar) I could not help but contemplate the power and influence and creativity that could come from just one man, a man who will live forever through his work.

 

It has only been a few weeks since his spirit rose and stepped aside, and for now, it will be difficult to imagine anyone replacing David Bowie.

 


 

One more thing: Before I left the Philippines for Barcelona over a year ago, I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Although inspiring, the film was too cheesy and unrealistic for my taste (How can Walter Mitty’s phone never run out of battery? And downhill long boarding is no easy thing). Nonetheless, it was a good film. Anyway, I didn’t realise or remember (until recently) that David Bowie’s Space Oddity featured largely in that film, and I wanted to share Kristen Wiig’s more than decent rendition of it: