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When bold, brash colors signify sensitivity and introspection: A conversation with TRNZ

The anime-inspired artist talks about his foremost references, collaborations, and being more enamored with imperfections than flawlessness in art

A freshie in the world of art collecting would do well if he stumbled upon the works of Terence Eduarte, or the self-styled TRNZ.  He’s an artist that you could categorize as a fellow freshie in the scene, although he isn’t exactly a lightweight, as the art world has quickly come to realize.

With blazing hues that eclipse more muted works, TRNZ’s paintings stand out.  Heavily influenced by manga and anime, he creates dizzying swirls of color and fresh-faced characters that strike a chord with young audiences.  Coke reds and pepsi blues are wielded with dexterity, and yellow strokes are splashed on to complete the primary triumvirate. 

His works instantly immerse you into an insolent, impudent world, and one might quickly conclude that the artist responsible for this welcome assault on the senses is likewise cheeky and indifferent toward convention.

Though that isn’t exactly the case. The visual sensurround of TRNZ’s paintings actually belies a sensitive soul still questioning his place in the art world. As an artist, he is still slowly defining his journey on his own terms. 

“I never felt, up to now, that I’m part of the art scene. I have this feeling where I don’t know whether my art is being accepted.  It’s only been three years (since going full time into art), and more than half of those have been in isolation. So I’m used to that situation where my audience doesn’t get what I’ve been doing.   That’s been my inner struggle.  I feel I have this impostor syndrome.  I’m not an arts graduate.  I thought I would be an art director or an advertiser.  I did that for six years and suddenly, I’m in the art world. When I hear the background of other people, I feel like I don’t belong,” TRNZ admits.

To an outsider, however, TRNZ seems to be killing it.  With solo and group shows, collaborations, and extensive media mileage, TRNZ has put his own stamp in the contemporary art scene, both locally and internationally.

TRNZ began his foray in the art world by parlaying his advertising agency skills into what would be his new playing field.  There was the merch, wherein he designed his own T-shirts, hoodies, plush toys, and toy sculptures. He even curated an artsy listening station complete with headphones and a playlist.

Collaboration offers eventually came in, including an Absolut Vodka campaign, the Soundrenaline Music Festival in Indonesia, and even a SAMSUNG global campaign, validating the global appeal of his imagery. 

One would think, with these successes, that TRNZ would be resting on his laurels. However, he’s conscious of potential pitfalls.  When asked about the harshest critique he has ever received, TRNZ recounted:

“I once had a long conversation with another artist who said that I was too heavily influenced by Japanese anime.  I told them, growing up in a pre-internet world, we didn’t have cable, so all I had were afternoon TV shows like Dragon Ball Z, Ghost Fighter (Yu Yu Hakusho) etc.  This was what I experienced. I’m not faking it, even if I’m not Japanese. If it were different, then maybe, I would be different now. My art would be different now.  Sure, you think those (Japanese shows) weren’t our culture, but that’s the entertainment I consumed.”

He muses further on the influence anime has had on him, relating it to where he’s going in terms of artistic direction:

“In terms of narrative, my works are personal.  Usually, my works reflect experiences that I want to relive, mostly hinged on childhood or personal memories. On the surface, those works are playful or happy, but there are underlying themes that are somber.”

“Recently, I created a work that hinges on regret, of not spending time with my brother, who left for the UK. These feelings of regret are sugar coated with the way I draw my figures and the colors. I like the contrast of the fact that my painting is visually vibrant, but when you think of the symbolism, there’s something personal.  It’s only its skin that’s been influenced by anime.” 

And this skin is being shed for a transformation yet to be fully realized. TRNZ shares:

“I think my style is changing. When I was starting out I was drawn to works that had super clean lines and uber-flat colors. But as my career was progressing, I was discovering my temperament as an artist.  Now, I’m more fond of textured and floating surfaces.  When I started, I wanted to emulate the flawlessness of digital animation, with clean lines and all, but now it’s being broken. I’m influenced by other aesthetics here (in the Philippines) who employ more grungy styles.  I let more flaws in the lines come out.  Before I used to tape, but now I don’t. I want to see the imperfections. It’s changing and I can see the changes clearly.”

Aside from style, TRNZ has also been on a quest to broaden his artistic horizons from painting to animation.

“This 2021, I focused on my dream to make an animated film.  It’s a music video of an artist, Unique Salonga. I was given the liberty to interpret it the way I want to.  His intentions for the song were different from how I interpreted it, which was okay with him.  In terms of how it fits my career, I view it as part of my world, this animation is not just a side project.”

The music video for the song “Mga Katulad Mo,” dropped the final week of September 2021, with TRNZ transforming the song from a seemingly revenge-motivated, taunting, and jeering match into a metaphor for self-discovery and self-acceptance. 

In his video, TRNZ casts what seems to be his usual girl character, Polka, as a woman seemingly demonized, and ultimately replaced, by her shadow. TRNZ lavished such care on the production values that each frame of the four and half minute video is capable of being translated onto canvas and sold as separate paintings. 

The current version of Polka that he slaps on his canvases is getting sleeker, more sophisticated.  Before, Polka was a little girl; now, she seems chic, more grown up and more stylish. 

When asked about this change, TRNZ shook off the questions. “I had this baggage from the ad industry, self-imposed, that there had to be a name for my characters.  I had strict tones with the colors of blue and red.  The character always has to have this skin, or the loon has three stripes.  But over the years I’ve been letting go, because now they don’t matter.  The boy (Baby Blue) is now just a boy, and Polka is now just a girl.”

So what’s next for his characters?  He says, “I’m not developing more characters, I’m expanding their forms. I want to bring it outside the canvas, and see where else I can bring my art. That’s where my curiosity is going.”

TRNZ is slated to be featured in AsiaNow Paris and the Art Moments Jakarta fairs at the end of October.  He will also be at the sophomore edition of the ALT art fair, before ending the year in his home in Cebu, Qube Gallery.