Rodel Tapaya

b. 1980, Montalban, Rizal, Philippines
Lives and works in Bulacan, Philippines

Rodel Tapaya is a leading Filipino painter who is known for his large-scale canvases, narrative murals and sculptural installations that evoke the primordial rainforests of indigenous folklore as allegories for the present reality. Often executed on canvas, glass, or burlap, Rodel creates unique cosmologies out of labyrinthine forms, weaving together mythical creatures with hallucinogenic landscapes that recall the magic realism and political praxis of Mexican muralists. In doing so, the artist addresses the conflict between tradition and rapid urbanisation, global labour and rural exodus, and the nation’s ongoing postcolonial traumas.

Tapaya received the ‘Top Prize’ in the Nokia Art Awards in 2001, which enabled him to study at Parsons School of Design in New York and the University of Helsinki. He completed his degree at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, and in 2011 was awarded the ‘Signature Art Prize’: a triennial award recognising the most distinguished artworks to emerge from the Asia-Pacific region.

Tapaya’s work draws extensively from a rich history of Filipino literary folklore, piecing together pictorial fragments to create complex scenes that grapple with contemporary politics, and social and environmental concerns. In his installation ‘Modern Manananggals’ (2014), winged figures of Visayas origin detached from their legs reference the millions of overseas Filipino workers who labour under poor working conditions and are unable to return home. Bagobo, B’laan, Ibanag, and Zambales mythology are all evoked to create a powerful animist vision that situates ancestral knowledge and ecological specificity in the everyday.

Biography information from Ocula, May 2023

Country: Philippines
Social Media: @rodeltapaya