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Josh Palisoc’s malleable narrative

In an age when borders are battled over and art is more mixed-up than ever, sculptors make for compelling protagonists.  Enter Josh Limon Palisoc, an artist that explores the fragility of metal and communicates meaning beyond their appearance.

Some artists work with oil or acrylic paint. Others use charcoal on canvases. Josh Limon Palisoc welds soldered metal.

 His works are almost theatrical in their arc and breadth. At times, they resemble different spiritual states—one piece appears to show a soul leaving a body—or the point in time when a vessel settles into a new configuration. In other moments, they are more abstract: a weave of metal cables and patterns, representing meshes of inspiration from the textures of the real world.

Over the past few years, Palisoc began to show locally at the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, Philippines, before bagging an art residency in Berlin, Germany—where his works received international attention. As we talk to the artist himself, we find out that this serendipitous experience is somewhat instinctual. And much like his practice, it seems that the path to it is just as subliminal. 

Check out our conversation below.

What led you into the art residency at Berlin and how did you master all that creative overlap in those years?

I was supposedly in Berlin for vacation when I started connecting with galleries to get the possibility of showing my works in exhibitions. This is how I got to stay a bit longer and put up my first exhibition in Europe. I would say I am threading through these different artistic disciplines. My curiosity gives me energy to adapt and grow.

Why do you think your work draws such a diverse audience? Is it because there’s some universality to your themes?

My narratives revolve around not only on the physical human body (labas) but also on emotions, identity, intellect (loob), and soul and conscience (lalim)—concepts that are fundamental to the human experience/existence.

I consider my tedious process as Sympathetic Magic, a ritualistic transfer of my own energy to an inanimate object, making it an extension of myself or a medium to communicate my suppressed emotions and deepest desires. I guess the audience is also drawn to this energy that is evoked by my pieces.

Your works are about identity and self expression. What do you feel you’ve learned about yourself through the process of creating it?

My creative process involves building the physical body piece by piece. It reflects my desire to dissect the complexities within myself as I try to give them a physical representation in the world. I have realized that learning about myself is not a one-way linear process. It is a cycle of understanding and confusion, and I don’t think I will ever get to the point where I have unraveled all the mystery within myself.

It’s interesting you mention the cycle of understanding and confusion, though. Is there one thing you’ve noticed that has remained the same in your output over the years?

I will always create narratives that I feel genuinely connected with. That is something that remains constant in my work.

If you could bring them to life, what characters would they be and how would they interact with each other?

If I could bring my inner process to life, I would describe them as paradoxical. There is always push and pull, flow, movement like the waves of the ocean, like a dancing fire, at the same time, they long for peace, rest and calm.

When you are in need of a bit of fun or inspiration, what do you do?

My narratives come from within myself and whenever I feel disputed with my own self, I find it difficult to stay in the studio and create. In times like this, exposing myself to nature, traveling or gardening, helps me reconnect/reconcile with myself. Self-care and taking a break also help a lot.

Something I love about your work is that there are constant juxtapositions at play and it seems like that spills into your life too. For example, you’re really into nature and gardening these days?

I honestly admit that I am still in the process of making peace with the fact that tension, however unpleasant, is an essential ingredient of our life’s experience. I like incorporating this in my works and keeping them open to different interpretations. Yes, I think gardening is also a form of creating.

Since the pandemic, exhibitions are taking place in virtual museums and galleries across several continents. How do you view the idea of art online as opposed to experiencing it in real time with other people in a space? How does that make the experience and energy different?

The pandemic has pushed the creative community to present art in the most creative and exciting ways, and this will continue to evolve over time. But just like reading a book, the connection you create with an artwork when you experience (not just see or hear) its overall existence is just difficult to replicate. 

Any upcoming shows or projects we should look out for?

I’m currently preparing a solo exhibition at Pinto Art Museum and a Two Man show at White Walls Gallery, both happening in August. My narratives will revolve around the self as tahanan (home) or a place of ginhawa (rest),  duality and identity.

Photos: @joshualimonpalisoc