Born and raised in Manila, Dexter Sy has been confronted with prejudices about his Chinese name since his earliest childhood. Origin, identity, religion these are themes that he stages in his carefully and detailed new exhibition titled “Bloodline.”
The title of the show is a continuation of the artist’s project, to which he has devoted himself in an artistic way since 2015. Sy’s grandfather immigrated to the Philippines as he was forced to leave the country due to an epidemic in China.
Fast forward to 2019, the Philippine artist’s works are once again absolute actuality because of the ongoing political events of a globalized world.
Sy’s work deals with the cultural peculiarities that arise as Filipino with Chinese roots.
The paintings of the artist are not entirely clear at its first look, hence, the viewers are asked to explore the narrative of his art. Sometimes the viewer is asked to make use of their own family history to connect to the shown painting.
Sy does not show classical family portraits, roles in the middle of a cultural patchwork that have to find their way in a world full of religious as well as spiritual and social prejudices. Instead, he consciously uses the stylistic device of family portraits and alienates them in an ironic as well as grotesque way in order to irritate the recipient in his accustomed way of looking at things.
His two-dimensional pictures in ink are descriptions of society and tell about a world between two cultures. The incarnation of his figures, which, due to their fine texture and detailed ornamentation, appear almost like mosaics or inlays from cultures long past, in white or light green, lends the depicted figures a fragile character.
Again and again, the artist’s works are peppered with spiritual figures — angels, hands folded in prayer; a person appearing with a halo; a person with a portrait of Christ and a crown of thorns. The religious character of the pictures is reinforced by the fact that Sy stages his portraits like icons. The background of his works alternates between black, red and gold — in his new series he is using white for the fist time as well.
For Sy these fragments are not meant to represent a religious quotation, the artist understands them exemplary as a synonym of spirituality. And to him, spirituality characterizes all people, regardless of their origin or religion.