Northern tales on a postcard

Northern tales on a postcard
Filipino artist John Frank Sabado whose solo exhibition titled, Northern Postcards is on at The Drawing Room.

The fast-fading practice of sending postcards is revived by Filipino artist John Frank Sabado in his new solo show, Northern Postcards.

His 11 monochromatic drawings, rendered in fine detail using ball pen and ink, do not, however, come in sizes that are mailbox-friendly.

The smallest work measures almost 80cm in length and some stretch as long as 1.8m.

In spirit, though, his drawings are not unlike postcards, a concise method of communicating deeply personal thoughts and emotions.

The drawings depict imaginary vistas of lush environments and man-made concrete jungles that point to the fragile balance, and sometimes imbalance, between both.

These visions, which sometimes also enfold folktales and indigenous customs of the northern Philippines, are subtly layered, one upon another, such that borders sneak and encroach on each other.

This tension between nature and man's progress is an enduring message in Sabado's art - it is a part of his personal history and an issue close to his heart.

The 45-year-old artist grew up in a logging area in northern Philippines from the 1960s to mid-1980s and has fond memories of playing in the forests as a child. Much of his childhood playground, however, has been denuded by illegal logging.

Sabado, who is now based in Baguio City, says: "I often visit the place in my dreams, but it now needs to be completely reforested because of continuous illegal logging."

Glimpses of the glorious hills and forests he once roamed, though, are offered in meticulous detail in his drawings.

The composition of the images draws on the intricate and symmetrical design of traditional tapestry from the Cordillera region in northern Philippines.

The drawings also embody a texture that resembles the delicate woven textiles which inspire them.

To render the minutiae, it takes the self-taught artist no fewer than two weeks, clocking 16 hours every day, to complete one of the smaller pieces in the show. With the bigger works, more than a month of painstaking focus is required.

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