Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Carlo Tanseco: Romancing Voltes 5, Mazinger Z and such

The artist gaining following for pop surrealist style redefines the robots of his childhood

Kimono - Mazinger Z x Aphrodite

Carlo Tanseco is on a roll. The artist usually associated with retail, product and furniture design, and architecture—and now famous for his meticulously painted background prints juxtaposed with iconic images —has unveiled his latest work.

Just months after his successful Ex Libris exhibit, which showcased his personal interpretations of characters from cult classic novels he had read growing up, Carlo revealed 12 paintings and five vase sculptures last October 8 at the Art Cube Gallery in Makati.

Imari – Voltes V (Blue)

Once again, the images that have sprung to his consciousness have come from his formative years, brought to life in his distinct pop surrealist style, bringing back strong memories of his growing up years..

Entitled Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto, this exhibit showcases his love for Japanese art, primarily toys that were the craze in his childhood. “It’s all that kids talked about and looked forward to at one time. It certainly was that way for me.”

Of the many toys from that specific era, Carlo decided to feature the iconic first-ever android child superhero and beloved mecha robots—giant robots controlled by humans—that were all the rage then. He remembers clearly when his fascination with these toys, particularly the robots, began.

“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. “I remember one of them was Mr. Kodama. 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.”

Carlo says that the element of transformation of these robot toys, how they can turn from several things into one robot and vice-versa, most probably influenced his interest in architecture, which he had later decided to major in. He actually had these toys and spent hours playing with them or religiously watching their animated shows.

Imari – UFO Grendizer (Blue)

The robots are set against equally iconic and traditional Japanese prints in their repetitive patterns. Completing the visual experience of each artwork is that the canvases are in the shape of Japanese kimonos.

Going beyond his paintings, but not surprising because of his background in design, the artist had decided to include five three-dimensional pieces that also feature the toys and patterns of the series.

Although he still has his robot toys, “in storage somewhere,” he drew mostly from memory, combined with a style which to him embodies the Japanese aesthetic and the way they presented these robots. For the patterns and the 3-D sculptural pieces, he says, “I studied their other crafts, as well, like Imari porcelain and their textile.”

The paintings in his exhibit last May had already been sold out even before the show’s opening, and he had to work on commissions from that series in the months that followed. Yet Carlo has remained prolific enough to mount a full solo show of new works not even a year later. He credits the provincial life in Siargao, which he has called home in the last two years. “In Munimuni, the resort where we live and which we operate, 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 made me who I am today,” he says.

Imari – Astroboy Cable Heart (Blue)

“It’s the change of pace and therefore, perspective. So, I credit my creative productivity to Siargao and my innate propensity to always outdo my last body of work.  When a date is set—because I’m a deadline person—the expectation and commitment to deliver set my wheels rolling.”

View Carlo Tanseco’s works in Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto at the Art Cube Gallery until October 29.


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