Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Art’

Two poems on Bruegel’s Icarus

December 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Books No Comments →

XIR3675 Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c.1555 (oil on canvas) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69); 73.5x112 cm; Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium; ( Icarus seen with his legs thrashing in the sea;); Giraudon; Flemish,  out of copyright
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c.1555 (oil on canvas) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69); 73.5×112 cm; Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. From Wikimedia Commons

Musée des Beaux Arts (1940)
by W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
walking dully along;

These are not Photoshopped, these are actual carpets and we want them.

November 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Design No Comments →


At first glance, Faig Ahmed’s carpets look like digital photos that didn’t load right the first time you clicked on them. Intricate patterns morph into messes of pixelation; blocks of color slide off like someone scrolled past them too fast; and some of the 2D mats look like they are bulging off a screen. But while they may appear to be software glitches or bad Photoshop editing, every one of Ahmed’s carpets are hand-woven – bugs and all.



Read about the work of Faig Ahmed at Smithsonian.

Art auctions are a spectator sport

November 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art 2 Comments →

Kiss of Judas by Napoleon Abueva, starting bid Php400,000

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, starting bid Php700,000

Talking Birds by H.R. Ocampo, starting at Php1.8M

If you want to convert your cash into a piece of Philippine art history, there’s Vicente Manansala’s “Mother and Child” from 1971, opening bid Php2M; a landscape by Botong Francisco, oil on board, Php2M; “Talking Birds” from H.R. Ocampo’s transitional period, starting at Php1.8M, and Napoleon Abueva’s sculpture in oak, “Kiss of Judas”, Php400,000. If you’ve decided that anyone can buy a Birkin and a Jaguar, but art always has cachet, there’s Ronald Ventura’s take on Leonardo’s Vitruvian man, “In Memorial”, starting at Php7M. If your money makes you feel guilty, contemplate the Passion of the Christ with a three-foot image of the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga. Made in Manila in the 1800s, the image ponders the whips, crown of thorns, hammer and nails at the center of the Catholic religion. Php700,000 opening bid.

Unless you’re very rich, the most memorable part of that last paragraph is the money. By my estimate, art auctions are 20 percent art and 80 percent commerce. I’ve looked in on a couple of auctions to watch people spend money without blinking, and they are not like the proper, gracious affairs in movies like North by Northwest. They’re more like sabong (cockfights)—rowdy, democratic, casually-dressed and probably as lucrative. Many of the bidders choose to be invisible, sending emissaries or joining the action online. The competition can be ferocious: the excitement as a Magsaysay-Ho or a Ventura crosses the Php20M mark is intense, even if you have nothing at stake. The tension is so thick, you can feel rich by osmosis.

Read our column at

You can preview the Kingly Treasures auction from November 28 to December 4 at Leon Gallery, G/F Eurovilla I at the corner of Rufino and Legazpi Streets in Legazpi Village, Makati City. The auction is scheduled for December 5 at 2pm. To see the full catalogue and find out how to get a paddle, visit

Tinio-Gabaldon cabinet, 19th century, starting at Php3M

Blue Harbor by Jose Joya, starting at Php3.6M.

Landscape by Carlos “Botong” Francisco, starting at Php2M

Update: Reader kotsengkuba alerted us that Vicente Manansala’s Mother and Child is at the Singapore Art Museum. According to the auction catalogue, the Manansala on offer is similar to that one, but painted later. Artists did paint the same subjects over and over again.

Good sleuthing! Sharp viewers make life more difficult for forgers, although the demand for masterworks keeps them employed.

The C-word (Craft) at the Handmade exhibit, CCP

September 29, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art No Comments →


Unwearables by Steph Palallos

Made by Hand
By Leo Abaya

Craft is the “C” word that used to be shunned when sleekness and conceptualism in art and design were at their most persuasive and pervasive. That was a time when discourse and theorizing was at the forefront and the skill that was most worthy of the artist was not that of the hand, but that of the mind; a distinction perpetuating the separation of the verbal and the manual, even insinuating the lack, if not, absence of one in the other.

Manananggurlash: Transgender, trans-species, trans-dimensional

July 21, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, The Bizarre 2 Comments →


In the scary tales of our childhood, the manananggal was a bisected monster with an insatiable craving for human bopis and dinuguan. In the daytime, the manananggal assumed the guise of a woman who lived alone in a hut in the woods. At dusk, she would rub herself with magic oil that caused batwings to grow out of her back, talons to grow out of her fingers, and her upper body to detach from her trunk. Then the upper half would fly around villages in search of fresh human viscera. She was said to be especially fond of fetuses, which she would slurp straight from their mothers’ wombs with her extremely long tongue.

To kill a manananggal (not the title of a third novel from Harper Lee), you had to find the monster’s trunk and sprinkle rock salt in it. This prevented the upper half from returning to its lower body so it was forced to fly around until sunrise, when it would be vaporized by sunlight.


The manananggal story reveals what Filipinos of the past were really afraid of: single women who lived alone. They were suspected of being grotesque hell-creatures who were out to eat other people’s babies.


What if there were manananggal in our midst, living in the city and hanging out with people? They might look like Manananggurlash by Jason Moss, sculptures in metal, ceramic, resin and other materials. Hey, is that Anna Wintour?


Manananggurlash is currently on view at Secret Fresh Gallery, Ronac Art Center, Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills, San Juan. Telephone +63 2 570 9815. The gallery is open from 10am to 7pm everyday except Monday.

The couch where psychoanalysis was born

May 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, History, Places, Traveling No Comments →

The couch in Dr. Freud’s office

We didn’t get to read The Interpretation of Dreams, which we’d packed for our trip to Vienna. There was so much to see that we could not look at pages. And then we took lots of photos at the Sigmund Freud Museum, which used to be the Freud family apartments. Since we’re maniacal about organizing our files, we transferred the photos into our Mac, which was stolen two days later.

Book unread, photos stolen—if as Dr Freud said there is no such thing as an accident, what does this mean?

Dr. Freud and his dog

Fortunately we bought a couple of postcards from the little museum shop, which carries Freud’s books.

The museum is a recreation of Freud’s office where he saw his patients, with shelves containing his books and collections of tchotchkes, and plenty of photographs. Some rooms are used as contemporary art exhibition spaces. There is a replica of his famous couch—the original is in London. Apparently he didn’t write his books in his office, he would work on them during his travels. There are also home movies narrated by the doctor’s daughter Anna. In one of them, Sigmund is hanging out with his grandson Lucian Freud the artist.

The Freuds fled Vienna for London when the Nazis came to power. They took their furniture with them, and of course their beloved Chows.

* * * * *

Speaking of dreams and the contents of people’s unconscious, some images from The Art of Dreams in the Public Domain Review.

henry fuseli
The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli (1781). People who have experienced bangungot say it feels like a monster is sitting on their chest. Voila.

Job’s Evil Dreams by William Blake (1805).

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai (1814). Tentacle porn is older than we think.

Dream Vision by Albrecht Durer (1525) with text describing what he saw.