Filipina Artist in Switzerland: Pamela Gotangco
Pamela Gotangco – Switzerland
Tell us about yourself. What kind of art do you make?
Hi, my name is Pamela Gotangco and I am a wife, a mother of three and a visual artist based in Switzerland. I moved to Switzerland from Abu Dhabi in 2009. I had 2 very different careers prior to pursuing my long time dream of becoming an artist: I worked for international airlines based in the Middle east and USA, and I was also part of a team that brought internet service via satellite to the Asia-Pacific region in the late 90s. I became a professional artist in 2010. To date I have participated in 54 solo and group exhibitions in major cities worldwide.
My art exudes positivity, peace and unity. I chose subjects that are in general representational of women and transcend the female form.
My primary advocacy is to empower all women and girls through my art. My aim is to highlight the role of women in present society, our hopes, dreams, struggles and triumphs in my art work.
Another advocacy that I whole-heatedly support is uniting the Filipino migrants abroad by highlighting the beauty of the Filipino culture, art and heritage in my pieces, as well as encourage Filipinos all over the world to showcase their talent and shine.
Through art auctions, I’ve supported several non profit organizations based in the Philippines and for Filipino communities abroad.
How did you become passionate about art? What inspires you? What is the philosophy behind it?
I was first an art enthusiast before I became an artist. My travels gave me the opportunity to witness and appreciate a wide variety of art. I left the Philippines at the age of 20 to work for an international airline based in the Middle East. As cabin crew, we had long layovers in our destinations as the flights were not as frequent as today. Between those countries, I had plenty of great museums, galleries and art streets to visit. I took this opportunity to immerse myself in the world of art and fell in love with it.
I am timid in words. However, I found painting to be a medium to express my thoughts no matter how momentous, insignificant or random they may be. As a proponent of equal opportunities for women, I draw insights from the roles of women in our present society, and my style is figurative, feminine and arbitrary.
What makes your art unique? Are there any defining characteristics? Or is there a definitive approach to your work that you’ve made your own?
I create art that highlights women. If we want to achieve gender equality across all fields, women must support other women. Through my art I am able to uplift profiles of women and promote their livelihood. In the art world, women are still underrepresented and undervalued. But this is slowly changing due to the initiatives of women leaders who create opportunities to for artists like me. On my part I create representational art that transcends female form.
My medium is mostly acrylic on canvas, but I also work using found objects for installations. I am an autodidact. I am not bound by conventional technique. I create my own balance, unity and harmony based on feelings and instinct. I also use of repetitive patterns due to their therapeutic effect. I enjoy my freedom when working on my canvas and through that I am able to achieve a style and stroke that is distinctly mine.
My choice of palette is a result of my being a global Filipina. The bold colors I used on my subject represent my roots and for my intense love for Filipino culture and heritage. It is the influence of Fiesta, Santacruzan, the Ati Atihan of the South and Panagbenga of the North. The subtle colors I employ in the background imitate the hazy colors of winter or the fresh vibrant undertones of spring in countries with four seasons that I have called home.
Have you had any significant events through your artistic career? Exhibitions, showcases, etc.
To date, I have had 54 solo and group exhibitions in major cities worldwide. Each and every show that I have participated in had its own charm and significance. However, I still remember my first gallery represented show as if it was yesterday. It was with Art 333 Gallery in Zurich. It was a group show called “Old Acquaintances, Newly Discovered”. I was exhibiting with 2 other established artists in Switzerland, Zanre and Isabelle Gabrijel.
Other memorable ones would include my participation in SCOPE Basel in 2016, during Art Basel. The Art Shopping in Caroussel du Louvre in Paris 2016, due to the close proximity of my art to the iconic works of the masters. My ManilART Fair participation in 2019. My few minutes of glory being digitally displayed in the iconic Times Square in New York USA in 2012.
I also treasure all my shows at home in the Philippines. My group shows with Frontofbicycle art agency in Basel is also something that I look forward to all the time.
What can you say about the art community in your country? What are the good parts and the bad parts (if any)?
Switzerland has a vibrant and diverse art scene. There is no other country on Earth with as many museums compared to size of population as Switzerland. Switzerland is also the home of Art Basel, the mother of all art fairs. Dada art was born in Switzerland during the First World War when art had no place anywhere but in neutral Zurich, Switzerland. A great number of Modernist Icons, architectural geniuses and famous performers are also from here, and I am privileged to be able to live here and learn from my surroundings.
What are some of the challenges that you face as an artist? How do you get past them?
In the beginning of my career as a visual artist, I experienced the confusing loss of identity. Being a Filipina visual artist outside the Philippines, I constantly worried if my work is on par with European standards. And when I was in the Philippines, I worried that my European influence wouldn’t be accepted by Filipino audiences. It brought me nowhere. When I stopped worrying, I was able to use my inherent cultural and acquired environmental influences as an opportunity instead of a setback. Now I am at peace with my art through incorporating both aspects of my life in a frame. To me, it tells the story of my life as an artist.
Do you see any future for artists such as yourself? Is art essential to the development of your community?
Look around us, the world is filled with art. So my answer is yes!
Art is essential. Art is a medium that transcends all boundaries. May it be cultural, language, philosophical, religious or political boundaries. It has a way of uniting people despite our differences. It also gives voice to the voiceless.
One could write volumes about why art is important. But let’s take the current situation as an example. “What is the role of art during the global pandemic?” For me, there are 4 points why art is essential during the current global pandemic.
First, art catalogs the pandemic. Artists from all over the world created artworks depicting the pandemic for the future generation to see and learn from. It is much like artists did during the 1918 Spanish flu. Artists during that era witnessed history and documented it in their works.
Second, art has a way of changing the mindset of its viewers. Apart from sparking dialogue, it changes mindsets. Artists from all over the world have taken the initiative to create art that will encourage the public to follow protocols in fighting the virus. In this time of pandemic, the enemy is an unseen terror, and it provoked the imagination of artists worldwide. Artistic imagination creates narratives of uncertainty, of hope, of despair.
Third, art is an effective medium to address challenges and voice out all responses, critical or emotional. Artists worldwide have tirelessly created works addressing issues and challenges faced by the frontliners.
Art became the voice of the people who are yearning to end the pandemic.
Lastly, art gives hope. When our lives shifted online, even mundane Tik-tok performances became an art form that lifted our spirits. We started feeling connected along with our metaphoric edges, so art and technology became our lifelines.
What’s your message to artists around the world?
On the note of the pandemic, we are in collective isolation, but I do believe that we’ve proven to be exceptionally creative, resilient and persistent. Nothing should put us down. It should provide new ways to live life profoundly. This is who we are as humans. We just need to remember that every single day. Never stop creating art that will provoke, question or give hope. We are essential.
On the note of creativity, the work of your hands makes the world a much better place. Creating art that will be good for others is what should resonate in all our efforts. Never lose sight of your mission as an artist. We only stay relevant when we have a purpose. So live an artful but purposeful life.
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